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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

I wasn't going but.... I am.

As we have quite a number of holidays planned for 2019 including a commitment to attend Rootstech, London in 2019 I decided that it would be sensible to stay home for a while. Just yesterday I got a message that Salt Lake City Ambassadors need to register for that event by 31 October, 2018 (that's today) and my mind was made up - I would be a #notatrootstech Ambassador this year.

Rootstech 2018
Fast forward to today and Qantas, our favourite airline, had a special "Companion Airfare Offer" where two people could fly for the price of one. I mentioned this to Mr GeniAus when he came in for lunch and suggested that it would for fun for him to accompany me and travel to Salt Lake City via Seattle (a city near the top of our bucket list) in February. He agreed!

I just booked our flights from Sydney to Seattle and from Salt Lake City back home. We arrive in Seattle on 15 February 2019 and leave Salt Lake City on March 3. I am definitely attending  Rootstech in Salt Lake CityLuckily months ago I had booked four nights (all I could get)  at The Marriott Downtown City Creek so we have accommodation during the Conference.  Now I need to work out our itinerary for the rest of our trip - suggestions most welcome. My immediate task is to register.

I am so excited to be able to partake in the geneafest of  educational opportunities Rootstech offers. Catching up with the many genimates I have made at Rootstech over the past 9 years is the icing on the cake. As a proud Australian I love to fly our flag at Rootstech.

Aussies at Rootstech 2019

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Trove Tuesday - Magick Moments

The surname Magick is well represented in my family tree. I have been able to add some people,dates and stories to my tree thanks to Trove's digitised newspapers.

Following are some Magick Moments courtesy of Trove.

William Magick

1838 'Advertising', The Sydney Monitor (NSW : 1828 - 1838), 27 April, p. 4. (MORNING), viewed 29 Oct 2018,

1938 'NATURAL CAUSES', Windsor and Richmond Gazette (NSW : 1888 - 1954), 8 July, p. 3. , viewed 29 Oct 2018,

Donald Ray Magick
1941 'MAGICK—ROBERTSON.', Catholic Freeman's Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1932 - 1942), 3 April, p. 23. , viewed 29 Oct 2018,

William John Magick (aka Westbrook)
1899 'Family Notices', Windsor and Richmond Gazette (NSW : 1888 - 1954), 26 August, p. 4. , viewed 29 Oct 2018,
Ida Rosabell Magick
1932 'COMING OF AGE PARTY', Gilgandra Weekly and Castlereagh (NSW : 1929 - 1942), 9 June, p. 6. , viewed 29 Oct 2018,
James Edward Magick

1918 'HORUSE-BREAKER KILLED.', Daily Standard (Brisbane, Qld. : 1912 - 1936), 1 February, p. 5. (SECOND EDITION), viewed 29 Oct 2018,
Mary Irene Magick

1932 'About Mudgee People', Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative (NSW : 1890 - 1954), 14 November, p. 1. , viewed 29 Oct 2018,

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Genimates at Rootstech

One of the best things about Rootstech is meeting up with my Genimates from all over the world.

This morning, when a Google Photos message popped up on my computer, I started browsing and came across some pics of my genimates at Rootstech in 2015 - a year when we had a strong  Australian contingent make their way across the equator to Rootstech in Salt Lake City.

I had never explored making animations with Google Photos - it was dead easy but I wish I could have slowed down the animation.

Genimates at Rootstech 2015

Seeing all those smiling faces makes me keen to return to Rootstech once more.

Can you spot any of your genimates in the animation?

Saturday, October 27, 2018

GeniAus Favicon

There are often several browser tabs open at once on my computer.

It has been said that pictures speak louder than words. I can identify many of these from the little Favicons that display in the browser tabs but when I have  some with the same little icon it's hard to distinguish one from the other. I found directions from Chick Croll on how to do this here This used to be a fiddly process but it is so easy now.

Until recently if I had three or four Blogger blogs open I could not identify which was which without reading the small text in the tabs but now that has changed.

Now I just have to look for for my familiar GeniAus portrait Favicon to find my blogger blog. I can also easily identify Myrt's Musings from DearMYRTLE's favicon.

My open browser tabs
That little portrait is an important of my branding - several years ago when I was going to change my portrait to a more lifelike/real photo one of my genimates said "You can't do that - it's part of your brand. So now I use it at every opportunity.

Together with my internet identity GeniAus it make my content easily recognisable.

Friday, October 26, 2018

A Shoutout to our Registrar

Recently at Hornsby Shire Family History Group we welcomed Amanda Ianna, NSW Registrar for Births, Deaths and Marriages to our meeting. I was thrilled that such a busy person accepted my invitation to address our Group as I knew that she was an enthusiastic and energetic speaker who would keep our members entertained.

During the meeting on Wednesday 17 October several of our members mentioned their frustrations with searching the NSW Historical BDM indexes since the Registry's website revamp about a fortnight earlier. Amanda, who is very interested in user feedback, said she would take this up with the website team and see if they could address our issue. 

Two days later on Friday 19 October when I opened the Registry's BDM Home Page I found that our website issue  had already been addressed and that the link to start searching the Historical Indexes was only a click away from the Home Page. 

Thank you Amanda for your prompt resolution of our issue.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

CGD Update

Registering for some CGD
I just updated the CGD page on my blog. I know I left lots out eg the blog and Facebook posts I read each day and the small video clips I view on Youtube and other sites.

What is CGD you may well ask?

I am pasting below the text of my blog post from 2011 in which I described this activity.

CGD - It's not a disease

I recently posted my plans and rationale for keeping a Learning Log for Genealogy. This is a record of those learning opportunities that I have taken. 

Shortly after this I read DearMyrtle's post Education Plans in which she reported on her plans for the coming months. This is an assignment for the ProGen12 Study Group of which she is a member. She has listed her plans under the headings Area of  Focus, Activity, Time Frame and Cost..

Myrt asked "What are your plans to hone genealogy research skills? " which set me to thinking if  I should have a more formal plan for learning.  I have been pondering this for a few days and have decided that, as I am an amateur genealogist, I do not need a formal education plan.

So for my CGD, Continuing Genealogical Development, I plan to look out for educational opportunities that cater for deficiencies in my knowledge (not hard to find) or pique my interest. I undertake learning via a range of delivery methods: face-to-face, online via webinars or podcasts, radio broadcasts,  various print media and by trial and error.  I will endeavour to take part in at least one learning activity per week and will continue to document these in my Learning Log.

I will seek out potential learning opportunities by reading blogs, accessing the geneawebinars blog, following the calendar of SAG,  reading about events at Unlock the Past, perusing mailing lists and keeping my eyes and ears open.

I am sure that I will find plenty to keep myself amused. 

How about you? 

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Cousins Baited

I have been in contact with two distant cousins who share my convict ancestor Elizabeth Phipps for around 25 years. We found each other some time last century and shared and communicated for a while.

Then, when along came DNA which proved that we really were cousins, we resumed communications. One of the cousins set up a private Facebook Group where we discuss our research on Elizabeth, her descendants and the paternity of her children. We are hoping that one day we will have a connection with a distant cousins that will give us some clues to solve our paternity problem.

The cousins follow my GeniAus Facebook page and saw that I was to be presenting a talk on "Cousin Bait" at SAG so they signed up. They were baited! I can add this new method of baiting cousins to future presentations.

Please don't tell the other genies who came along to my talk yesterday but meeting Lyn and Leonie, who travelled from outside Sydney to hear and meet me, was the high spot of my day. I'm sure we will see each other again soon.

Leonie, Jill, Lyn

Friday, October 12, 2018

Hobnobbing in 1983

35 Years ago on 12 October 1983 we went on a picnic with friends of the family. While we were there another picniker Captain Mark Phillips posed with our children.

Weren't they cuties - my four that is.

Daily Telegraph - Some time in October 1983

Thursday, October 11, 2018

A Blog Reader's Plea

I recently read Carmel Galvin's excellent post Untangle those Blogger Knots.  This set me thinking about a pet peeve of mine and a piece of advice  I wish geneabloggers would heed from me.

I travel a lot and try to keep up with blog reading on my smartphone when I have a spare moment. I find it most irritating when I am unable to read a blog post because it is not optimised for mobile devices.

GeniAus - At sea on a smartphone
When some blogs display on a mobile device the font is so small that is is nearly impossible to read. On others the font is in a pale colour that is also hard to read, I am a fan of pale gray but not as a font on a white background. (I am thinking of one blog in particular that uses a Wordpress theme but there are several I follow that are difficult to read).

In this 21st century many folk like me use their smartphones for a lot of their internet browsing. You may be missing out on potential readers if your blog is hard to read on these devices.

Have you taken a look at how your blog displays on a smartphone? Is the font tiny? Does the reader have to do a lot of scrolling from left to right to read each line? Is there plenty of contrast between the font and background colours to make reading easy?

I realise that some bloggers do not have smartphones and are therefore unable to see how their blogs look on these devices. Perhaps you could ask a friend to view your blog on their smartphone. If you don't have a smartphone toting friend feel free to send me your blogs' URLs and I'll take a look for you.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Trove Tuesday - I love Trove

This morning @TroveAustralia tweeted:

After reading that Tweet I realised that I hadn't been loving Trove on #TroveTuesday much lately. Sure I had been searching for articles and correcting the text in some of them. I also included some slides about Trove tags and lists in an upcoming presentation about "Cousin Bait". 

In my talk I will be showing people how to use tags as cousin bait and how to search for ancestor tags. I always try to tag posts about my ancestors. My search for my grandfather "Frank Duncan"brings back 65 results most of which are tags I attached to articles about Frank. 

I love lists on Trove. I use the CurryAus list to keep track of articles I find for my CurryAus surname study. I can add and edit notes to the items in the list. This is useful when I have added the details from an article to my database, I can keep track of articles I have not yet worked on. 

List result from a  simple Trove search for CurryAus
The results for lists show up on the main Trove results page, note that my blog is included under the Archived website category. 

Result for simple Trove search for CurryAus
One can also just search the lists. When I search Lists for Curry I found more than mine. Some of these lists directed me to articles I could add to my list.

Results for a Curry search in Trove Lists

Monday, October 8, 2018

Dropping in on Emily

I started writing this blog post on my smartphone last Monday when we were on a roadtrip in country NSW. I had intended tidying it up on my laptop before posting that evening but I forgot to pack my computer. As I found the post difficult to tart up on my phone I put it aside until we returned home.


Mr GeniAus and I are currently motoring south along the motorway and I am attempting to draft a blog post on my phone.

On the way to our  destination we stopped into Liverpool General Cemetery and Crematorium to visit the grave of Emily Ball nee Royds. Mr GeniAus' Great-Grandmother. A few years ago when we first located her grave we discovered that it was unmarked. We discussed this and decided that we would like to place a memorial on the plot.

It took us a while but around 2016 we approached the cemetery authorities asking for permission. We submitted copies of relevant certificates that showed Robert's relationship to Emily. The cemetery replied that we needed the approval of the plot's owner  (who happened to be buried a couple of rows from Emily). We did find as living descendant of the plot owner who had no objection. We then contacted a monumental mason who was happy to undertake the work for us.

After quite a bit of deliberation we chose a simple plaque and appropriate wording. Around a year ago the monumental mason let us know that the plaque had been placed on Emily's plot.

Since moving house we haven't had an opportunity to visit the cemetery and inspect the plaque. Today as we were motoring south we took a small detour and dropped in on Emily. On seeing the plaque that mentioned birth and death dates, maiden name and place of birth I commented that it looked like a genealogist had input into the information shared on the plaque. Hopefully, in the future, it may help some other genies who are connected to Emily.

While at the Cemetery I also took a couple of dozen photos and uploaded them to BillionGraves. I was on a tight time schedule or I would have added more.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


When my Mother passed away a year ago I spent time between her death and funeral reminiscing and preparing her eulogy. As an only child I wanted to give the eulogy as I had for my Dad when he passed away in 2001. As well as having some notes I realised that having images to accompany my talk would make my task easier so I created a Powerpoint presentation for the funeral.

I have decided that I will share the photos and some notes from my eulogy to this blog so that the story of Mum's ordinary life will be preserved on the Pandora Archive.

To me Elsie was a mother but she was more than that. In the next few minutes I will examine some of the roles Elsie played in life and share a few vignettes with you.

 Elsie was born to Frank and Ethel Duncan on a hot summer’s day in 1923 at Cobar. The first of the five Duncan girls she outlived all her siblings and her elder brother Bill Chatfield. For the first few years of her life the family lived out of Cobar on a property named Elsinore. They moved to town when it was time for Elsie to start school.

Although there wasn’t a lot of money to go around Mum had a good life in Cobar where she had many pets including Trixie the dog, horses and a pet kangaroo.

Grandfather Frank's travelling cafe
Mum loved travelling around the countryside to race meetings, football matches etc with her Dad in his catering van from which he sold home made ginger beer and pies made by Ethel. Elsie enjoyed school and loved needlework but hated her piano lessons at the local convent. 

When she left school Elsie’s father took her up to the local post office where she got her first job. I think Elsie inherited her strong work ethic from her mother who ran a cafĂ© in Cobar and worked in several domestic situations. 

The family moved to Sydney during the second world war as Frank thought there would be more opportunities there for his family. He took Elsie and her sister Eileen to the Sydney GPO where they gained employment, Elsie as a telephoniste.  Elsie was devoted to her brother and sisters. There was no need for a huge circle of friends, her siblings filled this need. She was particularly devoted to her sister Eileen who was sick for many years.

The Duncan Girsl, brother Bill and Mum Ethel

The siblings marked many family celebrations with a group photos.

 Elsie met Dad, Allan Curry, when he boarded with the Duncan family at Kensington. They were married shortly after the death of her father hence it was a quiet wedding. When Dad was diagnosed with diabetes around 1956 Mum became his carer. That, as an insulin dependent diabetic, he reached his eighties was attributable to the watchful eye of Elsie who monitored his health and diet.

 Nine months after my parents marriage I arrived. Since that day until recent times I, and then my family, were the focus of Mum’s life, her raison d’etre. Mum always worked, firstly part-time as a telephoniste, in her friend Roma’s hairdressing salon, with her sister Kath in their delicatessen, then in Farmers Department store and when I was older she took on fulltime clerical work.

Dad believed in saving every penny while Mum believed in spending every dollar that came her way. Working gave her the independence to keep us well dressed and entertained.

Mum wasn’t educated but she valued education. During the ten years I attended university part-time she and Dad, collected the kids from school and Mum cooked dinner for the family twice a week while she directed Dad in doing the family ironing. Without Mum I wouldn’t have my degrees.

In 1972 Elsie became a grandmother. She loved the four grandchildren selflessly. She and Dad took them on many outings and holidays although the holidays stopped when their ranks swelled to four. Dad would come up with the idea for a trip to the zoo or a picnic and Mum would have to organise and cater. Now that I am older and a grandmother I realise how difficult this was for her. No wonder she wore a pained expression in some of Dad’s photos. 

When we installed the kids in a home unit next door to Elsie and Allan's home in Dolphin Street I don’t know who was babysitting whom but they all kept an eye on each other.

We have so many happy memories of meals shared with or cooked by Elsie. Crumbed cutlets, roast lamb and lasagne were her standards. Cooking wasn’t her strong point but she tried and our stomachs were filled.

Elsie rejoiced at the births of her great-grandchildren. When recently told that she had 12 Great-Grandchildren Elsie couldn’t believe it. She always was thrilled to see the children but with her failing memory wasn’t able to identify them. Her sharp wit remained with her to the end, the kids enjoyed her humorous quips and comments (and her Favourites chocolates).

From a young age Elsie was an active member of the broader community. She was a member of the Junior Red Cross in Cobar, ANZAC House younger set as a young woman and in recent years an office bearer with the RSL Ladies Auxiliary, Probus and the War Widows Guild.

With a gregarious nature Elsie made many friends over the years,Too many for me to list. Three of those friendships that endured over eighty years were with Mavis who went to school with her in Cobar, Roma who lived with the Duncan family in Kensington, and Joan, wife of her brother Bill.

Mum enjoyed a party. She also loved to dress up and play the fool.

Elsie loved a celebration. On Victory in the Pacific Day, 15th August 1945, Mum went out into Martin Place in Sydney and danced in the crowd.

She was always happy to go for a ride, bike, car or bus, Elsie loved an outing. Although she couldn’t drive Elsie was always up to be a passenger. She and her sister Kath went driving and shopping nearly every Saturday until Kath stopped driving.

After losing Allan in 2001 Elsie lived on at Randwick for several years. When she decided it was time to move she took up residence at RedleafApartments in Wahroonga. She loved the idea of being a North Shore lady and enjoyed the social outings at Redleaf. She nearly ran me ragged on our shopping trips for appropriate fashions. Wahroonga ladies didn’t shop at Millers! 

When she needed more care Elsie moved to the neighbouring hostel at Carise Place where she had a happy and peaceful stay. As Mum’s dementia increased over the past few years our roles reversed. I have watched her fade away but her passing last week was still a shock. I am so grateful to the family for calling us back from overseas so that we could say goodbye.

Hers wasn’t a remarkable life but it was a full life, Elsie’s focus was on her family. 

Elsie’s spirit lives on through her descendants. We will cherish her memory.


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