Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Trove Tuesday: Letter from the Front

Private William Suttie, son of William Suttie and his wife Catherine Purdie, wrote to his father from France in the last months of 1917, and the letter was published in the Singleton Argus, presumably because Private Suttie’s letter contained news of other local lads.

William Suttie was born in Pathhead, Midlothian, Scotland in 1896 and emigrated with his father in 1911. His mother and other siblings followed in mid-1912.


1917 'FIGHTING IN FRANCE.', Singleton Argus (NSW : 1880 - 1954) , 29 December, p. 5, viewed 24 September, 2012, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article80708690



This letter really gives us an insight into what was happening in the trenches and how communities stayed connected, even on the front. I decided to do a quick search on all the names that Private Suttie mentioned to see what I could find.

As mentioned in Private Suttie’s letter, Jamie Coe (James Mather Coe) died on 12 October 1917 at Passchendaele. He is commemorated on the Menin Gate in Ypres, which I visited in 2009 – an amazingly moving site. I highly recommend a visit to Ypres, and the In Flanders Fields Museum (which is second only to the Australian War Memorial in excellent war museums – and I have been to a few)!

Bert Watson (Albert Victor Watson) was indeed promoted through the ranks of the AIF, firstly to Corporal and then to Company Quarter Master Sergeant. Before the war, he was a Railway Officer with NSW Railways in Newcastle, so there is correspondence in his file between his employer and the army regarding permission to enlist, and his pay once he was promoted. He awarded the Belgian Croix di Guerre, in addition to the Victory Medal, 1914-15 Star, and the British War Medal.

Billy Smith is a little harder to track down – as you can imagine, there are over a thousand personnel files for William Smith. I am not prepared to guess which one is the right one.

Bill Dimmock (William Dimmock) was the eldest of the bunch of Greta “boys” that Private Suttie mentions, he was 40 years old when he enlisted in 1916. Bill made it through to war, returning to Australia in 1919. William’s eldest son, Samson, also joined up in 1918, just after his 18th birthday, also returning safely to Australia. Bill’s second son, William James enlisted on 8 May 1918, only to be discharged on 13 September 1918 for being underage. He even supplied a tampered with birth certificate to try and prove his age, but the army received confirmation from the Registry Office that it was a fake and sent him packing.

Sam Waring (Samuel Waring) enlisted in Sydney in April 1916, but was from Greta. He was also promoted whilst in France from Private to Corporal. He returned safely to Australia in 1919.

William Suttie’s own record also allows me to paint more of a picture than simply knowing his “numbers”.

According to his description on enlistment, he had tattoos on his chest and both arms, something I did not expect from the stories I always heard about his upright (or uptight) Presbyterian upbringing.

In December 1916, Private Suttie spent a week in hospital sick. He was also reprimanded (and fined 14 days’ pay) for being AWOL for five days in the month before he embarked for France from England after recovering from bronchitis. I wonder where he went for five days. Did he go up to Edinburgh and visit his family?

He was wounded in action only four months prior to writing the letter, and spent a month in hospital in France, before returning to the front and going over the top with his mates.

William returned to Australia, married Iris McElvoy in Sydney in 1922, and started a family of his own. I am actually descended from William's sister Christina Purdie Suttie, and I will write another post soon about their parents.


All the Trove Tuesday posts are listed here. Please join in, and share some of the treasures you have found on Trove.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

A Staggered Emigration - The Bull Family

Walter Bull and Harriet Shadwell are my fourth great grandparents; I am descended from their daughter Amy Rosetta who married John James Weatherstone, grandson of one of my convicts John Weatherstone aka the "notorious runaway".

Walter Bull was born about 1831 in Wiltshire to James Bull, a labourer, and his wife Jane Todd. He was christened in Steeple Ashton on 17 July 1831.

In 1841, Walter was living in the village of Rowde with his parents and siblings Luke, James, Ruth, Thirza, Lydia, and Harry.

From findmypast.com's 1841 England, Wales & Scotland Census Image Collection from The National Archives, London, England.

A decade later, in 1851, Walter was still living with his parents in Rowde, Wiltshire, working as an agricultural labourer, like his father and brother Luke.

From findmypast.com's 1851 England, Wales & Scotland Census Image Collection from The National Archives, London, England. 

Harriet Shadwell was born about 1833 in Wiltshire to Henry Shadwell and Louisa Mead. She was christened in Melksham on 16 March 1834.

I haven’t been able to find the Shadwell’s in the 1841 Census, but in the 1851 Census, just months before her marriage, Harriet is found as a house servant to the Lyall family in Fulham.

From findmypast.com's 1851 England, Wales & Scotland Census Image Collection from The National Archives, London, England.

Walter and Harriet’s marriage was registered in the December Quarter of 1851 in Trowbridge, Wilshire. (Their wedding certificate is on my rather large “to buy” list, that at last glance would cost me well in to the thousands of dollars to finalise, and sometimes it is just too hard to prioritise which one I want next!)

According to their death certificates, Walter and Harriet had 15 children. I have been able to identify 11 of them (if the death certificates are accurate, there should be another two males and another two females):

  1. William S (b. c. 1852-3 - ?) (At this stage, I am unsure whether William ever made it to adulthood or immigrated to Australia) 
  2. Lydia (b. Dec. Qtr 1855, Wiltshire - d. bef. Dec. 1856)
  3. Lydia Elizabeth (b. 29 December 1856, Rowde, Wiltshire - d. Mar. Qtr 1857, Rowde, Wiltshire)
  4. Jane (b. Mar. Qtr 1859, Melksham, Wiltshire - d. bef. 1861)
  5. Walter Henry (b. c. 1862, Melksham, Wiltshire - d. 12 April 1936, Wallsend, NSW)
  6. Thomas John Joseph (b. c. 1865-8 - d. c. 1945, Granville, NSW)
  7. Edith Maud (b. Dec. Qtr 1867, Melksham, Wiltshire - d. 3 January 1946, Manly, NSW)
  8. Amy Rosetta (b. Mar. Qtr 1870, Kensington, Middlesex - d. 27 March 1949, Newcastle, NSW
  9. Albert E (b. c. 1872-3 -d. c. 1918, Wallsend, NSW)
  10. Alfred (b. c. 1874-5 - d. 20 February 1930, Hamilton, NSW)
  11. Arthur John (b. c. 1878-9 - d. 21 March 1942, Newcastle, NSW)

In 1861, Walter (an agricultural labourer), Harriet and their only surviving child after a decade of marriage, William (aged 9), were living next door to Harriet’s parents Henry and Louisa Shadwell in Melksham. Both Walter and William have their place of birth as Fulham, Middlesex.

From findmypast.com's 1861 England, Wales & Scotland Census Image Collection from The National Archives, London, England.

In 1871, Walter, Harriet, and four of their children ([Walter] Henry, Thomas J J, Edith M, and Amy R) have moved to Hammersmith and Walter’s occupation is that of “carman” (effectively a carter of goods) – interestingly, this is what his son Alfred declared as his occupation when he registered his father’s death 43 years later.

From findmypast.com's 1871 England, Wales & Scotland Census Image Collection from The National Archives, London, England.

When I find them in 1881, they are now living in Acton, and their household has expanded somewhat. There is Walter (whose occupation is now “Carman in Brick Works”), Harriet, and six children (Walter H, Thomas, Alfred, Albert, [Arthur] John, and Amy), and Harriet’s parents Henry and Louisa Shadwell. Henry and Louisa are aged 78 and 77, and since Henry is clearly no longer able to work as an agricultural labourer, they have moved in with their daughter.

From findmypast.com's 1881 England, Wales & Scotland Census Image Collection from The National Archives, London, England.

Unlike most of my immigrant ancestors, the whole Bull family did not emigrate at the same time, but most of them ended up here eventually.

Walter and Harriet’s daughters Edith Maud (aged 17) and Amy Rosetta (aged 15) came out to Australia together as assisted immigrants on the SS Belgic, arriving in Sydney on 25 October 1885. They cited their native place as Middlesex and their religion as Plymouth Brethren. There was only one other Plymouth Brethren member on the ship – Ruth Longhurst, of Kent, aged 31. All three of them were domestic servants and could read and write. It is possible Edith and Amy came to join their eldest brother William, although I can find no evidence to suggest that, so they may have been the brave young women who tested out the new land before the rest of the family followed.

From State Records NSW Online 'microfilm' of shipping lists; Passengers on the S S Belgic; Reel 2143, [4/4811]

Three years later Walter and Harriet arrived in Australia in December 1888, aged 56 and 55 years old, with their three youngest sons, Albert E (aged 16), Alfred (14) and Arthur (10), as unassisted immigrants. They arrived on the SS Gulf of Guinea.

Thomas John Joseph Bull (aged 25) arrived in Sydney on 13 September 1890 with his wife Eliza Golding (aged 29) and their two daughters, Edith Eliza (aged 3) and Sophie Elizabeth (aged 1), on the SS Murrumbidgee, as unassisted immigrants. Thomas’ occupation was declared as a brick maker.

From findmypast.com's Passenger Lists leaving UK 1890-1960 Image Collection from The National Archives, London, England.

A decade after his sisters, Walter Henry Bull (aged 31) arrived on the SS Darmstadt, a German ship from Bremen, on 1 June 1895 as an unassisted immigrant. It was the Darmstadt’s first voyage to Australia, via Suez.

SS Darmstadt (photo from excellent website http://www.clydesite.co.uk/clydebuilt/viewship.asp?id=539)

Harriet predeceased Walter on 3 January 1908, and was buried two days later. She died in Islington at the age of 75 from cancer of the stomach and exhaustion, four months after her diagnosis.

Walter died six years later on 17 February 1914 in Northumberland Street, Maryville at the age of 83 from “senile decay” – which means he is likely to have had Alzheimer’s (see the very useful website Antiquus Morbus for more information about old death certificate terms). He was buried the day after his death.

The doctor that attended both Harriet and Walter on their deathbeds was a man by the name of Aubrey Crawley, who worked at Newcastle Hospital and in private practice in the area for a number of years. Harriet and Walter’s son Alfred, living in nearby in Power Street, was the informant on both occasions.

They are both buried Lot 25, Section 39 in the General Section of Sandgate Cemetery. William Young of the Plymouth Brethren officiated at both funerals. Four of their children, as well as numerous decedents, are also buried in Sandgate Cemetery - Walter Henry, Amy Rosetta, Alfred, and Arthur John.


This post is getting a little too long, so I am going to stop writing now! Besides, I am sure there are other decedents of Walter and Harriet in Australia who know much more about their story than I do, and I would love to hear from them. 

Sources for the facts and figures in the this article can be provided upon request.


Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Trove Tuesday: Four Ships - What Links Them?

My fellow Trovites and I been suffering some serious Trove withdrawals while their IT team sorted out a hardware failure, so my Trove Tuesday post today is going to be short and sweet - and you'll have to come back tomorrow to see what these four ships have in common.


First, there was the SS Belgic:

1885 'THE EMIGRANT S.S. BELGIC.', The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), 4 August, p. 8, viewed 18 September, 2012, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13594424

1885 'EMIGRANT SHIP BELGIC.', The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), 25 August, p. 7, viewed 18 September, 2012, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article13596326

Second, there was the SS Gulf of Guinea:

1888 'SHIPPING-INTELLIGENCE.', The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), 15 December, p. 11, viewed 18 September, 2012, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article6912775

Third, there was the SS Murrumbidgee:

1890 'SHIPPING INTELLIGENCE.:.', The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1956), 12 September, p. 4, viewed 18 September, 2012, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article8434852


And fourth, there was the SS Darmstadt:

1895 'SHIPPING.', The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), 8 June, p. 2, viewed 18 September, 2012, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article9326285


Wonder what all these ships have in common? Or WHO all of these ships have in common? You'll have to wait for my next blog post... If you know, or want to hazard a guess, feel free to leave a comment!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

A Global Genealogy Economy - Or Not (Update)

A quick lunch-break post, following on my post last week about a global genealogical economy, I thought I would update you on what I chose to do, and whether or not I am happy with the decision.

In the end, I renewed my World Heritage package on Ancestry.co.uk for AU$213.73 (including the foreign exchange fee on my credit card). This was a whopping AU$286.22 saving from renewing on Ancestry.com.au. Since I was saving so much, I thought I would also sign up for world access on Findmypast.com (which during their promotion only cost me another AU$59.55). So for AU$226.67 LESS than what Ancestry.com.au wanted to charge me to renew, I now have access to the records of the two largest players in the genealogical records market.

It is always worth shopping around - even with genealogy.

I am still getting used to the Findmypast.com interface and search methods, but I have already found a couple of additional records that augments my family history research. Indeed, I even sent a very embarrassing email to their support people asking why I couldn't access the UK military records, but it just turned out to be days of repeat user error (I kept accidentally filtering it to the US instead of the UK). Their response was very prompt (less than 12 hours, even with the time difference), and very polite and patient. Needless to say, I wrote a very apologetic and thankful email back.

I have been using Ancestry.com.au for years, and it was so nice to have full access back. I even found some new and exciting information about some ancestors, with whom I had hit a brick wall.

So, I am VERY happy with the savings I've made, especially considering I now have access to the records on Findmypast.com in addition to Ancestry.com.au for less money than I thought I was going to have to spend on my Ancestry renewal.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Trove Tuesday: The Hit-and-Run Death of Ada Caroline Nowitzki (nee Culla)

Trove Tuesday

Another Tuesday, another Trove Tuesday post! Thanks to all those GeneaBloggers and local and social history bloggers who are joining in each week! I have put a list of all the Trove Tuesday blogs on a page on my blog site, so please let me know if I have missed any. It gets updated each Tuesday evening (AEST).

Hit-and-Run - Murder or Manslaughter?


Ada Caroline Culla was born to Denis Culla and Margaret Jane McCormick in 1870, probably at Dora Creek. Her parents had married in 1862 in Maitland.

In 1891, Ada was a bridesmaid at her sister Eather Ellen Culla’s wedding, which I mentioned in my blog post about William Buchanan.

In 1899, Ada had an illegitimate daughter, Maude, who died the same year. For the next 20 years, there seems to be no records relating to Ada, until an accident ended her life in 1920.

On 19 July 1920, she was knocked down by a car and killed on George Street in Sydney, after being to the movies with her husband and a friend.

It was a hit-and-run, and the below articles follow the story of the accident, investigation, and acquittal of two suspects.

I should order some certificates to find out more about Ada’s husband, but I believe he was Bernard Edwin Nowitzki, a sailor born in Danzig, Germany (now GdaƄsk, Poland), who arrived on the merchant ship Harvest Queen on 17 August 1895 and stayed to work on the wharves as a labourer. He successfully applied for Australian citizenship in 1936, and passed away in 1948.


1920 'FATAL MOTOR ACCIDENT.', The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), 20 July, p. 7, viewed 11 September, 2012, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15898629

1920 'MOTOR CAR FATALITY.', The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), 21 July, p. 9, viewed 11 September, 2012, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15898709

1920 'MOTOR CAR FATALITY.', The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), 7 August, p. 9, viewed 11 September, 2012, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15901259

1920 'CENTRAL CRIMINAL COURT.', The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), 8 September, p. 9, viewed 11 September, 2012, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15905925

1920 'CENTRAL CRIMINAL COURT.', The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), 9 September, p. 4, viewed 11 September, 2012, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article15906056

1920 'CENTRAL CRIMINAL COURT.', The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), 14 October, p. 6, viewed 11 September, 2012, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16870380

1920 'CENTRAL CRIMINAL COURT.', The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), 3 December, p. 7, viewed 11 September, 2012, http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article16878062