Friday, 26 January 2018

#52Ancestors - Week 4 - Invite to dinner

The prompt this week is to write a post about an ancestor you would invite to dinner. Well the list is endless, however I decided, after some consideration, that if time travel was possible my invitation would go to my 3 x great grandfather, Thomas William  Birch (1767-1821).

Why would I choose Thomas William Birch? Simply because there are lots of questions that I would like to ask him especially as his early life appears to be a mystery. Some notes about and questions for Thomas.

  1. Thomas William Birch is the first member of my family to voluntarily settle in Australia.
  2. When was he born? There is uncertainty about his actual date of birth. It is generally accepted that he was born sometime in 1767 but it may have been later.
  3. Where in England was he born?
  4. Who were his parents? Some family trees provide parents for him but I have not yet seen any documents or sources confirming his parentage.
  5. We do know that he arrived in Hobart Town in May 1808 aboard the whaler, Dubuc.
  6. We know that he was a medical officer aboard the ship and there are accounts of him occasionally working as a doctor in Hobart Town.
  7. Where did Thomas do his medical training?
  8. Why did he decide to remain in Hobart Town? We can make assumptions, the obvious one being that he married a local girl and decided to settle in the colony. On 12 September 1808 Thomas married Sarah Guest (1792-1868), daughter of George Guest and Mary Bateman, at St David's Church. Hobart Town. The following month the Dubuc left for the return trip to England but sank in the Derwent River. 
  9. The second assumption would be that Thomas could see potential in making a new life in the colony. The settlement was only four years old when Thomas arrived. Before long Thomas proceeded to establish himself as a merchant. Sealing and whaling were also profitable industries from Hobart Town at thta time.
  10. Thomas and Sarah had seven children (a daughter died as an infant). 
  11. We know that by the time of his death in 1821, Thomas was one of the richest and most successful business people in Hobart Town. It would be interesting to know what this man was really like as a person.
  12. When Thomas died unexpectedly in December 1821 he left a complicated will that took 18 years to settle. Why did he plan his affairs that way?
It would be good to have answers to some of these questions and to have a better understanding of this complex businessman.

Friday, 19 January 2018

#52Ancestors - Week 3 - Longevity

Nancy Hazel Hutton
The prompt for week 3 is LONGEVITY. There are several ways that you can look at longevity in family history research. Longevity could be how long you have been researching a particular person or family. It could also be looking at how long ancestors have lived which is the angle I propose to take. Longevity in this case largely depends on the period in which ancestors lived as well as the conditions in which they lived.

Genes can be a contributing factor with members of some families living longer than others born at the same time.

Rosemary Lord with her aunt, Eleonora Hutton (mid 1940s)
One of my grandmothers, Nancy Hazel Hutton (1899-1997) and her sister, Eleonora Ruby Hutton (1892-1990) both lived to be 98.

In this case the longevity genes appear to have come from their father's line. Their father, George Hutton (1850-1936), was 86 when he died. Their grandfather, William Forbes Hutton (1816-1896) lived to be 80 while their great grandparents, Thomas Hutton (1772-1856) and Janet Robertson (1780-1862) lived to be 84 and 82 which would have been considered to be old age at that time in the UK. George Hutton came to Australia when 19 while William Forbes Hutton came to Australia after serving in the army in India.

Longevity can also be linked to a person's health and life style. With twelve convicts in the family I am interested in how the convict members of the family fared in their new environment. 

Mary Hyde

One of my convict ancestors, Mary Hyde (1779-1864) lived to be 85 which in the mid 19th century would be considered a good age. 

Below is a table of the longevity of my twelve convicts:

As can be seen two of the convicts died in their mid 50s, five died in their 60s, two in their 70s and three in their 80s.

I do not have details of the parents for all of the convicts but Simeon Lord's father, also Simeon Lord (1744-1787), died when he was 43 while his wife, Ann Fielden (1745-1786) died at 41.We would consider this young but it was around the average age of adult deaths in the UK at that time.  

However Kezia Brown's father, Aaron Brown (1749-1840) was an exception. He was 91 when he died while his wife, Mary Farley (1745-1804) died when she was 59. 

William Robert's parents, John Roberts (1717-1792) who died at 75 and Jane Lugg (1727-1804) who died at 66, also lived longer lives than would be expected at that time in England. 

Perhaps life was healthier in Worcestershire and Cornwall than in Yorkshire where Simeon's parents lived.

I suspect that when looking at the ages that my convicts died you could argue that they appear to have lived a healthier lifestyle and perhaps eventually had better food (though the first years in the colony would have been extremely difficult) than family who stayed behind in England. When time permits, I want to spend time investigating what happened to family members, including brothers and sisters, who remained in England and Scotland if information is available. It may then be possible to make a reliable comparison. 

A project for later this year.

Saturday, 13 January 2018


Kambala school for girls began at Fernbank, a house in Edgecliff Road Edgecliffe. In 1887 Miss Louisa Jane Guerney started a school with 12 girls in the house. As the number of pupils increased the school moved to a larger property named Kambala in 1891.The new property consisted of 13 acres. By this time Mademoiselle Augustine Soubeiran was co-principal with Miss Guerney.

In 1913 the school had grown to almost 50 pupils so it once again relocated, this time to Tivoli, its present home in Rose Bay. The school brought the name, Kambala, to the new location. A building has been on this site since 1842 when Captain William Dumaresq built a cottage and later a house. The Dumaresq family lived on the site until 1881 when Morrice Alexander Black purchased the property. He then had the house rebuilt. Further estensions and alterations have been made to Tivoli since it became a school. It is currently the boarding house for year 7 - 10 students.
Tivoli (1941)
Additional buildings have been built on the site as well as sports grounds.
Senior House building (1941)
In 1926 Kambala became a Church of England (Anglican) Foundation School.

My mother, Rosemary Lord, was a pupil at Kambala from 1939-1942. Consequently she was at the school during part of the Second World War. The post in this blog, Shelling of Rose Bay, provides information about Rosemary's memories of her school days at Kambala during the war.

Rosemary started the school in first form (year 7 now). Rosemary's life at school during this time can be viewed via some of the photographs in a family album.
Group of friends outside the Tivoli building (1939)
Miss Fifi Hawthorne was headmistress of the school when Rosemary attended Kambala. Miss Chadwick was the House Mistress during Rosemary's first year at the school.
Miss Chadwick (1939)
In a family history interview in 1994 Rosemary described one of her interests at school:

I used to take part in the drama class at school. The first year I got the runners up prize and the second year I won the prize for playing a hunter in some crazy thing. We used to spend lunch time sometimes fooling around in plays and things. One girl was really funny. She had invented a skit on The Three Bears. There was much giggling and what have you. She later became a doctor.
Friends (Rosemary second from left in group)
Relaxing in the school grounds
Shirley, Judy, Helen, Myra, Jill, Rosemary, Jocelyn, Ruth (1941)
Rosemary's favourite sport at school was tennis. In the 1994 interview she described her interest in sport: "I played tennis and I was captain of the B team. I played basketball (netball) but I played in the B team."
Ready for a game of tennis.
Kambala is in a beautiful location as the image below, from Wikipedia, indicates.
Click on the image for a better view
As Rosemary noted: "The school was in a beautiful position overlooking the harbour by the flying boat base. For a couple of years I was in classrooms that overlooked the base and it was hard to concentrate."

Although Australia was at war it did not directly impact upon Sydney until 1942. However the girls would have had family members - brothers, cousins - who had enlisted and in some cases were serving overseas. Rosemary's cousin, David, enlisted in July 1940 and was sent to Malaya. Her brother, Michael, enlisted in December 1941. There must have been discussion among the students regarding events overseas.

When the girls returned to school in 1942 air raid shelters had been constructed during the holidays and air raid practice implemented. Then in June 1942 a Japanese submarine shelled sections of Rose Bay, not far from the school.

Rosemary observed: "The air raid came in the middle of the night. We didn’t realise at the time how serious it was. Part of Rose Bay was shelled including the beach. At New South Head Road some flats were hit, not badly but windows were broken."

Rosemary also noticed one change in the neighbourhood after the shelling in 1942:  "Across the road from us there was a house which was let to the Americans who used to come there on R & R leave. Of course I was young and innocent and did not take notice particularly but I presume they had their girlfriends there."

The shelling of Rose Bay would have alerted the students at Kambala, especially the senior students to the seriousness of war. A number of them, including Rosemary and her friend Jill, volunteered to do community work with war related organisations. (More about that in a future post).  However, in the meantime the students completed their studies before embarking on the next stage of their life.

Further information and references:

Shelling of Rose Bay - Family Connections

For the love of old buildings - a post in the blog Lilyfield Life

Kambala School - Wikipedia

Kambala Girls' School - Local History Fast Facts - Woollahra City Council (useful information about other sites in Woollahra)

History - Kambala - School website

Thursday, 11 January 2018

Shelling of Rose Bay

This was the final essay in the Oral History unit (my final subject) for the University of Tasmania Family History Diploma. The essay was restricted to 800 words (give or take 10%) and ended up being 819 words. Working to a word limit restricts providing some of the information on the topic but I will be linking additional posts to this one providing additional information on on the Flying Boat Base at Rose Bay and the presence of the Japanese off the coast plus incursions into the harbour. Photos not in original.]

Shortly after midnight, the residents of Rose Bay, a Sydney suburb, awoke to the sound of shells soaring over their homes. It was 8 June 1942. The previous week midget submarines had shelled targets in parts of Sydney Harbour, but now war had come to their suburb. [1]

1939 was a year of change for Rosemary as she moved from the family sheep station in south-western Queensland to Rose Bay to live with her aunt and attend secondary school. Her new home was Kooyong, a brick house on the corner of Hamilton Street and Carlisle Street. Rosemary described Kooyong’s location: “It was built up on a bit of a rise … and we looked down towards the Rose Bay Golf Club. We couldn’t see the harbour, but if you walked up to the next corner, and turned around the next street, you had a lovely view.” Rosemary also noted, “It was walking distance to school.”[2] 
Kooyong 1940s
School was Kambala in nearby Vaucluse. School days were happy days. Rosemary enjoyed playing sport, particularly tennis and netball and her favourite subject was drama. Her best friend, Jill, lived a few streets away. Rosemary described the school as being “in a beautiful position overlooking the harbour by the flying boat base.” She added, “For a couple of years I was in classrooms that overlooked the base and it was hard to concentrate.”

The flying boat base at Rose Bay opened in 1938 and was used by Qantas to take mail and passengers to England, plus other countries closer to Australia.[3] It was a busy centre with planes frequently arriving or leaving the base. However, by 1942, the RAAF had requisitioned most of the flying boats. The Rose Bay base then closed until the end of the war.

On 3 September, 1939, when Mr Menzies announced that Australia was at war with Germany, [4] Rosemary was holidaying with her mother and aunt in the Blue Mountains. They listened to the declaration of war on the radio. Almost three years later, shells from a Japanese submarine landed near her home. [5]

Initially war seemed far from Australia but fear of Japanese aggression grew, particularly in 1941. Japanese troops advanced towards Malaya and Singapore and then, in December, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour. [6]

At the beginning of the 1942 school year, students discovered air raid shelters built during the holidays. Rosemary described the precautions taken at Kambala: “At school we had air raid shelters which were a couple of classrooms strengthened up with beams and sandbags.” Students also learned what to do in the event of an air raid warning. “We used to have air raid practice, racing across and trying to remember what to do.” Rosemary added, “I hate to think what would have happened if there had been a raid.”

Precautions were not just restricted to schools. At night all buildings, including houses, observed blackout conditions. “At Rose Bay we had to blackout all the windows. We weren’t allowed to show any lights of course,” said Rosemary.

Owners of private houses also constructed air raid shelters for protection should enemy planes approach. Rosemary described how precautions were made at Kooyong. “We had our air raid shelter under Aunt’s room. There was a trapdoor that led down to the room though we could get to it from the outside as well. That was our shelter and we kept provisions there.”

When the Japanese submarine attacked, the sleepy residents of Kooyong hurriedly tried to follow their instructions: “…we had to rush to turn off the gas, fill the bath with water and make sure we had water below.” Rosemary then added, “I am afraid that if it had really been serious we would have been dead before we got ourselves organised.”

The shells that landed on Rose Bay came from the Japanese submarine, I-24, located fourteen kilometres out to sea.[7] Residents wondered what was happening. “We didn’t realise at the time how serious it was” Rosemary observed. “Part of Rose Bay was shelled including the beach. At New South Head Road some flats were hit, not badly but windows were broken.”

Few shells exploded though there was damage to a number of buildings, including houses, and roads.[8] Fortunately no-one was seriously injured. Two shells also landed on the golf course, located near the flying boat base.[9] Accounts of the shelling appeared in the newspapers.[10] Rosemary and her friends later visited some of the sites.

It is now believed that the Japanese attack on June 8 was planned to scare the population, rather than to create significant damage.[11] Not surprisingly some panic and uncertainty occurred after the attack. There was also a fall in house and rental prices in coastal areas and some families relocated to the safety of the country.[12] However most residents, including Rosemary (the girl from the country) and her aunt, remained in Rose Bay and continued their normal routine for the duration of the war.

Click image for a clearer view or use this link
The above image is from the website of Artius Real Estate and provides a view of Rose Bay overlooking the harbour taken in 2011. Kambala is to the left and the golf courses are to the right. Catalina Restaurant is built on the site of the buildings used by the sea plane base.

[1] David Jenkins, Battle Surface! Japan’s Submarine War Against Australia 1942-1944, Sydney, Random House, 1992, pp. 201-237; Bob Wurth, 1942: Australia’s Greatest Peril, Sydney, Pan Macmillan Australia, 2008, pp. 221-255
[2] In 1994 Rosemary Moses recalled memories of living in Rose Bay during the Second World War. [3] Kim Hanna, ‘Rose Bay Airport’, Dictionary of Sydney, 2014. accessed 1 December 2017
[4] Michael McKernan, Australians at Home: World War II, Scoresby, Victoria, Five Mile Press, 2014, p. 3; Bob Wurth, The Battle for Australia: A Nation and its Leader Under Siege, Sydney, Pan Macmillan Australia, 2013, p. 18.
[5] On the same night the Japanese submarine, I-21, shelled parts of Newcastle.
[6] McKernan, Australians at home, p. 96.
[7]Jenkins, Battle Surface!  pp. 247-251; Wurth, 1942l,  p. 261.
[8] Terry Jones and Steven Carruthers, A Parting Shot: Shelling of Australia by Japanese Submarines 1942, Narabeen, NSW, Casper Publications, 2013, pp. 44-53; Wurth, The Battle for Australia, p. 308. [9] Jones and Carruthers, A Parting Shot, pp. 87-97.
[10] ‘Sea Raiders Shell Sydney and Newcastle’, Sydney Morning Herald, 8 June 1942, p. 5.
[11] Jones and Carruthers, A Parting Shot, pp. 257-259.
[12] Jones and Carruthers, A Parting Shot, pp. 275-276.

Dean, Peter J (editor), Australia 1942: In the Shadow of War, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2013.
Hanna, Kim, ‘Rose Bay Airport’, Dictionary of Sydney, accessed 1 December 2017
Jenkins, David, Battle Surface! Japan’s Submarine War against Australia 1942-1944, Sydney, Random House, 1992.
Jones, Terry and Carruthers, Steven, A Parting Shot: Shelling of Australia by Japanese Submarines 1942, Narabeen, NSW, Casper Publications, 2013.
McKernan, Michael, Australians at Home: World War II, Scoresby, Victoria, Five Mile Press, 2014.
Moses, Rosemary, Interview by author, Audiotape recording, Melbourne, Australia, 10 May, 1994, in author’s possession.
Sydney Morning Herald.
Wurth, Bob, 1942: Australia’s Greatest Peril, Sydney, Pan Macmillan Australia, 2008.
Wurth, Bob, The Battle for Australia: A Nation and its Leader under Siege, Sydney, Pan Macmillan Australia, 2013.

For more information about the above books see my blog, Reading and Other Pursuits, for the post Sydney during the Second World War.

The post, Japanese submarines off Sydney contains a brief summary of events at the beginning of June.

Additional information about Kambala and Rosemary's experience of school in Sydney during the war can be found in another post in this blog - Kambala.
The post Rose Bay Flying Boat Base provides additional information about the flying boats.

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

#52Ancestors - Week 2 - favourite photo

I love this photograph of my grandmother, Agnes Campbell Thom, taken when she was, what we would call today, a teenager. Agnes was born on 4 July 1891. Agnes' father, James Campbell Thom was a solicitor who for many years held a high position in the New South Wales Civil Service. Consequently the family lived a comfortable lifestyle.

Unfortunately the actual date of the photograph is unknown but the dress and hairstyle suggest a young lady of the Edwardian period. What would the future bring? This small sepia photograph of Agnes looking directly at the camera suggests that she is confident and determined and ready to face what life has to offer.

Photographs can show different stages of a person's life and lifestyle.

This photograph was probably taken in the 1920s judging from the clothing and her short hair. By this time Agnes (known as Fairy) was the mother of two boys, Rex and Ken. She looks relaxed learning against the rock wall. On 29 January 1914, Agnes had married  journalist, JHR Moses (also known as Reginald or Reg or Mo). She was 22.  Her husband worked for a number of publications but is best known for his contributions to Smith's Weekly. Correspondence and research suggests that Reg and Fairy, to some extent, may have experienced Sydney's bohemian scene in the 1920s and early 1930s. (More information can be found in an earlier post.)

Some years later this photograph shows Agnes working in the Daily Telegraph Library. The photograph was possibly taken in the 1940s. Agnes is in the front on the right. Her husband had just started working at the Daily Telegraph when he died of pneumonia on 3 April 1936. It was the 1930s and Agnes needed employment so she accepted a position in the Daily Telegraph library. Agnes worked in the library for many years and eventually  had the role of supervising the other women working there.

Going back to the original photograph in this post, this young girl could not have imagined the changes in society and lifestyle she would witness and experience during her life-time including  World War I, the freedom of the 1920s, the challenges of the 1930s Depression, plus the early death of her husband then two sons serving in World War II. Not to mention changes in fashion - Fairy was always well dressed - music, transport, food and the beginnings of a multicultural community. Agnes died on 8 November 1974 aged 83.

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Rose Bay Flying Boat Base

When I interviewed my mother in 1994 she talked about living in Rose Bay in the 1940s and, at school, being distracted by the flying boats that often could be observed from classroom windows.  This observation made me interested in finding information about the flying boats.

The flying boat base at Rose Bay was Australia's first international airport. It was chosen 'primarily because it was a large bay with calm water located close to the city'. (Sydney Living Museums website).
Rose Bay Flying Boat Base 1939
The flying boat base was opened on 4 August 1938 by Lord Huntingfield, acting Governor General of Australia. The Sydney Morning Herald (4 August 1938 page 11) described the opening procedure:

The Minister for Defence and Civil Aviation, Mr Thorby, will speak, followed by the Post-Master General, Senator McLachlan who will hand to the Acting Governor-General, Lord Huntingfield, a special bag in which letters to the King, the British Prime Minister, and the British Post Master will be placed.
After a number of speeches Lord Huntingfield will hand the mail bag to the commander of the flying-boat, Camilla, Captain Lester J Brain. The Camilla will be moored as close inshore as weather conditions will permit and will be connected to the shore with a red, white, and blue ribbon, which will be severed by Lord Huntingfield.
When the Camilla takes off for Brisbane it will have an escort of planes from the Royal Aero Club of New South Wales. The flying-boat Camilla will depart from Rose Bay to-day about noon, instead of tomorrow at 7 am. The Camilla will carry two passengers for London, one for Singapore, one for Penang, one for Darwin, one for Groot Eylandt, and two for Brisbane. It will also take 150lb of freight, and some mails. The remainder of the British and foreign mails will be sent by air to Darwin, by way of Adelaide. The Camilla will not leave Darwin for Koepang until Sunday.
View of Rose Bay base c1938. Note swimming pool on right.
Initially the flying boats were used primarily to carry mail but, on 5 July 1938, Cooee made the first designated passenger flight from Rose Bay to Southampton in England. The Qantas flight took ten days with 30 stops. As the flying boats did not operate at night there were nine overnight stops with passengers usually staying in luxury hotels.
Daily Commercial News and Shipping List 6 July 1938
The passengers were provided with first class service, including meals, during the flight. There were fifteen passenger seats, two crew and three cabin crew. Passengers could walk about during the flight. As well as the main cabin there was a smoking cabin and a promenade deck where they could look out at the clouds or the countryside. The flying boats flew at 150 mph.
Flying boats of Australia
The flying boat base at Rose Bay was often busy with flying boats carrying, mail, cargo or passengers arriving or departing. It is no wonder that this activity may have distracted school students from time to time, especially when the base was so close to school.

During the Second World War flights to and from England were suspended in 1942 and flying boats were requisitioned for service in the Australian Airforce.

It was not until 18 May 1946 that the passenger flying boat service to London resumed. In 1955 Qantas discontinued its flying boat service. Ansett Airways purchased the flying boats to fly passengers to Norfolk Island and Lord Howe Island, a service that continued until 1974.

References and further information:                                                                               
There is much of information online about the flying boats and the base at Rose Bay. Four websites are listed below.

Airways Museum - Rose Bay flying boat base - There is much useful information on this site but not easy to navigate

Australia Government - About Australia - Flying boats of Australia

Dictionary of Sydney - Rose Bay Airport

Sydney Living Museums - Flying boats: Sydney's Golden Age of Aviation

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

#52Ancestors - Week 1 - Start

Several years ago I undertook a project, entitled 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, organised by Amy Johnson Crow. This was a useful exercise as it gave me the incentive to write in this blog about a different ancestor each week. I used the information collected over the years about an ancestor, starting with the twelve convicts in my family and then progressing through the family tree to my grandparents. I also included a few stories about direct family members who remained in the United Kingdom, when I had information.

How was this exercise useful? Well it allowed me to use the information that I had to write a story. Some stories were detailed. Some only contained limited information. This process showed where additional was required but, more importantly, it showed the value of the information I had collected over the years allowing me to tell the family story.

This year Amy has issued another 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge where each week she provides a prompt to encourage you to write something relating to your family story. We shall see how it goes. The prompt for week one is Start which can be taken anyway you want. In this post I write about how my interest in family history began.

How did my interest in family history start? I was lucky to be able to spend the summer holidays on my grandparents' farm, Rosemount, in Queensland and one year I overheard a conversation about an ancestor, Simeon Lord, who had been a merchant in the early days of the settlement at Sydney Cove. The conversation was short as I later discovered that my grandmother was not impressed that my grandfather's ancestor was a convict.

Back in Melbourne, one of the teachers from the primary school I had attended heard about our connection with Simeon and told us he had written a paper about Simeon for a genealogical society meeting. I guess this made me think that Simeon had been important so I began looking out for information about him in any books on Australian history that I came across. By the time I was seventeen I started to seriously begin investigating my family history starting, of course, with Simeon. My father also researched and wrote about Simeon and I have a small suitcase containing the copious notes that he wrote.

Dad thought that it was great to have a convict in the family and a few years before he died, Dad discovered that he also had a convict ancestor, Uriah Moses. We have a photo of Dad standing next to the Moses family, vault including Uriah's grave, at St Matthew's Anglican Church, Windsor, New South Wales.

I have now discovered twelve convicts in the family - eight on Dad's side and four on my mother's side of the family.

My grandmother also told stories of her family connections in India in the nineteenth century but as we, when children, were forced to listen to the stories we did not take much notice, though I remembered some of the names. Of course, now I wish that I had paid more attention.

Family history research has become a passion and I enjoy the thrill of making a new discovery, big or small. My husband is now also researching his family history so family history research has become a family affair.