Sunday, March 15, 2015

Resolution check

8 bells in a display case at Port Arthur
Bells at Port Arthur

Aren't these nice bells?  What do you call a group of bells I wonder?  One website suggests a peal.  The bells are apropos of nothing.  I just think it is important to have pictures in blog posts to arouse interest.  

Here's a photo of the didactic that is on the display case in case you want to find out more about them thar bells...

"Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee" John Dunne. Indeed.  

And so I look at what I have achieved as we hurtle towards the end of the first quarter of the year.

These were my New Year's Resolutions:

  1. Review magazines/books on my blog.
  2. Go on more genea-adventures
  3. Publish a journal article or equivalent.
  4. Participate properly in a Google Hangout.
  5. Listen to Genies Down Under podcasts.
  6. Catch up on Gene TV shows.
  7. Report on study I have undertaken

Well I have participated in 2 Google Hangouts now - here and here - I don't know whether I participated properly but they were better efforts than previously.  At least this time I seemed to be able to provide audio occasionally.

I'm about to go on a genea-adventure - i.e. Congress in Canberra at the end of the month so that just scrapes in.

I think I'd better report on study undertaken through UTAS over Xmas/New Year on this post.

Right - so, despite having "done" family history for probably 30 years, I firmly believe that you can always learn more so I signed up for the free (if you were an Australian citizen and applied for a HECS Waiver) Introduction to Family History course offered by UTAS over the Xmas break.  

There were plenty of students in the course who had not studied since forever - and that was perfectly fine - but it did make for a lot of angst at the beginning as people found their feet and dealt with new technology and "virtual" learning and all that entails.  This was my fifth online course so I was pretty relaxed but also amused that no matter how many online courses you do, it's always a challenge to navigate your way round a new platform.  So, my advice is, if you are considering online learning and haven't studied for a while, go for it.  Just be prepared to face some hurdles/challenges in the first few weeks but don't give up - persist!

I think UTAS must have been blown away by how many students signed up for the course.  It was very popular indeed.  I reckon there were over 500 students and that made for a lot of unread messages on the forums.  I think I finished the course with distinction but still had 10,000 unread messages on the course website.  That didn't mean I didn't keep up with course content but it gives you an idea of the volume that UTAS were dealing with over the period.

The course went for 9 weeks.  It started 8 December and finished 13 February.  
Topics covered included: 

  • Oral History
  • Planning Your Research
  • Conducting Your Research
  • Problem Solving
  • Presenting Your Research and 
  • Becoming an independent researcher

Assessment items included an oral history interview, a research plan and a research report as well as participation in the discussions online.

I was so pleased we had to do an oral history interview.  

Oral history interviews are something that you always mean to do but never get round to doing.  I think there is a certain coyness about doing them.  Perhaps because you wonder if the person you ask to interview thinks "Sheesh!  Do I look like I'm about to drop off the perch?"  It's a delicate affair.  And then, depending on who you want to interview, there are all the other things that go with that.  I wanted to interview my father or my husband's aunt.  But I really wanted to interview my father.  But there's a whole heap of baggage that goes with that too.  I am a daughter.  It doesn't matter how old you are, you're still a daughter.  There are questions you can ask and questions you can't or won't.  It's about respect in the end I suppose.

We also had to find a mutually convenient time to talk.  Don't think for a minute that retired folk have all the time in the world.  They're busy people too.  We settled on 6:45am my time/7:45am his time for a convenient time.  Obviously this interview was long distance which brought it's own challenges.  At first I thought we would do it on Skype but he baulked at that.  Not that he's not au fait with technology - he often outstrips me in this regard - but he wasn't happy with it.  

So we did the interview by phone which I actually think worked better.  I wasn't distracted by the visuals and nor was he.  We could focus on what was being said.  I put my mobile  on speaker phone and recorded the interview on an Olympus Digital Voice Recorder WS-831 which came with a USB interface for easy transfer to my PC.  The interview was not too long - 15 minutes all up but I can safely say that I got some "gold".  I'm sure we're all guilty of "hearing" our parents talk but not really "listening" to what they say.  I swear he told me stuff in that 15 minutes that I haven't heard before.  Anyways, I don't think the experience was too painful for him and hopefully we can do it again soon.

Next came planning the research.  Oh boy!  I'm a frog remember so this was an exercise in staying focused and persisting with a line of enquiry.  

My goal was to find out more about my grandfather's working life.  I thought he might have worked for De Havilland.  He was profoundly deaf when I knew him and I thought it might have been as a result of working closely with the manufacture of aircraft engines during the war.  At least that's what I remember my mother telling me.  

I blundered about trying to find what sources might be able to help me.  I got so confused that in the end I used a mind mapping tool called Coggle.  I have never been into mind mapping before but this was an absolute lifesaver and really helped me structure my thoughts and approach.

Here is my mind map.

I hope it makes some sort of sense to you.


Next was the Research Report.  Much of the material that I ordered from Archives didn't arrive in time (I'm still waiting for it).  As luck would have it, much of what I needed was right here at home.  My mother was an assiduous correspondent with her father (remember he was deaf).  So I have in my possession their correspondence from before she was married right up until just before he died.  At the eleventh hour I discovered a letter from him to her and a statement (possibly for worker's compensation purposes) outlining his position at the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation and the incident that caused the deafness.  This was truly a light-bulb moment for me.  I love ferreting around in Archives and Newspapers and the like but the reality was that critical information was right here at home.  I still need to back up this information with other sources but I really have to say that if I hadn't done this course I may not have found this information.

So all in all - well worth it and kudos to the teachers who made it happen!

This is my final report in case you would like to read it:

Research Aim

·         Where did Thomas McLoughlin work?
·         Who was his employer?
·         What was his position?
·         What was it like working where he worked?
·        Was his deafness the result of an industrial accident?

Biographical Report – 

Thomas Joseph Benedict McLoughlin

In order to discover more about Tom McLoughlin’s working life, several types of sources were explored, including electoral rolls, birth and marriage certificates, newspapers and family papers.  Questions were also posted to social media forums, correspondence was conducted with family members and organisations such as museums and historical societies were investigated.  Published histories and journal articles were also scanned for more information.


The following photograph features Tom posing with other work colleagues around an engine.

The back of the photo is dated March 1946 and has the signatures presumably of everyone in the photo.

Family lore indicated that Tom may have worked for De Havilland. The photo was posted to the de Havilland Aircraft Heritage Centre aka Mosquito Aircraft Museum Facebook page and produced some really interesting feedback, particularly the following:

It is definitely a Pratt and Whitney R-1830 built under licence in Australia by Commonwealth Aircraft (CAC) at their engine factory on Birnie Avenue Lidcombe NSW Australia. If my Guess is right this photo was taken in front of the engine test cells at the De Havilland engine factory across the road from CAC on Burnie avenue.
                                                Stuart Armytank

Unfortunately, not knowing Stuart Armytank’s credentials or background made it difficult to be confident of the veracity of the information.

Electoral Rolls and Certificates

Electoral rolls and certificates were studied again to confirm Tom’s occupational status. 

Tom married Kit or Katherine Forfar at the age of 36 in 1934. Tom’s usual occupation was listed as clerk.  A year later, Tom and Kit registered the birth of their only child, Barbara.    Again, Thomas’ occupation was listed as Clerk. 

The 1949 electoral roll shows as an “aero eng. ex.”  This description continues h up to and including 1968 electoral rolls.

Archives, Museums and Websites

The BeaufortRestoration website provided images of the Lidcombe Engine Plant and a twin row Wasp radial engine which looked like a match for the one in Tom McLoughlin’s photo.

Tom’s Mobilization Attestation Form was most useful because it gave evidence of employment. Tom described himself as an” Asst. Ammunition Inspector”. 

Files in the National Archives confirmed that in 1940, the United Aircraft Corporation of U.S.A. granted The Commonwealth Aircraft Company licence to manufacture twin row Wasp series “C” engines and spare parts.    They also confirmed that the Army Inspection Branch had taken over offices at 149 Castlereagh Street as per Tom’s identity card.  An impression of office space at the time was able to be obtained via images from the State Library of NSW on Trove.

A film from the Australian War Memorial’s website produced circa 1940 gave an overview of the manufacture of a Pratt and Whitney engine, although it was at the C.A.C. factory at Fisherman’s Bend in Melbourne.

Published Histories, Journal Articles and Newspaper Accounts

Newspaper advertisements for work at the Commonwealth Aircraft Co. provided an insight into working conditions, enticing prospective employees with promises of air-conditioning, proximity to the train and access to “the finest collection of machine tools” and training.  

Working as an aero engine examiner would have had its drawbacks though.  

Here is a description of what it was like to work in similar factories during WW1 according to Heald:

‘the great wall of noise -- the crashing, tearing, rattling whirr of machinery that seems to rise and confront one like a tangible substance.'

Brian Hill’s Wirraway to Hornet provided another photo of a P & W R.1830 Twin Wasp engine produced by C.A.C. at Lidcombe which matched the original photo in Tom’s collection.  Whilst the history had some great information in it, including photographs, appendices and an index, referencing of sources was limited to an acknowledgement of access to files at Hawker de Havilland in Victoria in the preface and held by an individual called Dennis Baker. 

Dennis Baker’s holding of C.A.C. Archives was further confirmed in a recent ABC Radio Program Canvas Wings.

Family Papers

The most helpful of all sources, however, were family papers including Tom’s identity card, Barbara’s letters to her father and consultation with other family members.  It was through these that references to both the Tax Office and C.A.C. were confirmed. 

Correspondence from Barbara to her father in the 1960s indicates previous employers as the Tax Office and C.A.C.

Correspondence in 1975 unearthed a letter from Tom which referred to a compensation claim, followed by a statement of the circumstances that led to his hearing loss. 

In October 1948 I was employed as an Inspector in the Test House at the Commonwealth Aircraft Factory at Lidcombe.  I had been employed there since 1942.  In the third week of October an engine was being tested and at the stage where we were assimilating altitude (about 40,000 ft) an explosion occurred in the intake of the engine which caused a screaming noise in the test room as the air rushed back into the engine after which I suffered an attack of nausia (sic).  When the engine had been "pulled down" it was discovered that the throttle had been bent into a letter "S" from a straight. 

These letters were not meant for publication and the statement is a form of aide memoir.   Tom’s deafness made the letters a vital form of communication – much the same way the telephone or SMS is used today. 


Family history research takes time and needs to be planned and tracked assiduously to ensure all sources are considered and discovered.

Family papers are an invaluable source of information regarding facts that might not be easily obtained from other sources, if at all.  Business records can be jettisoned without thought for posterity as described in a recent interview with Denis Baker on ABC Radio’s Canvas Wings program.

Further questions to be explored are whether there exist any records of Tom’s claim for compensation and to confirm his membership of the ASE. 

Noel Butlin Archives at ANU in Canberra has supplied an itemised list of the records of the NSW Branch of the Australasian Society of Engineers records 1906-1990. However a copying service is not available so a researcher will have to be employed or the Archives visited in person.

Key Sources

Primary Sources: Australia, Electoral Rolls, 1903-1980 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010.(HTTP:// accessed 1 February 2015), entry for Thomas  McLoughlin ; citing 1949, District Parkes, Subdivision Summer Hill No. 3889 on page 66 Australia, Electoral Rolls, 1903-1980 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2010. .(HTTP:// accessed 1 February 2015), entry for Thomas  McLoughlin ; citing 1968, District Parkes, Subdivision Summer Hill No. 1019 on page 33

Conner, B.H. (Blakehurst, NSW) to “Dear Dad” [Thomas Joseph Benedict McLoughlin], letter, 26 March 1961; Daw Family Papers, 1959-, privately held by Alex Daw, Chapel Hill, Queensland 2015

Conner, J.R. Sydney to Alex Daw, e-mail, 18 January 2015 , “Tom McLoughlin”, McLoughlin file; privately held by Alex Daw, Chapel Hill, Queensland, 2015

Hood, Sam, The office area, Oddfellows' Building (for Building Publishing Co), Hood Collection part I : Sydney streets, buildings, people, activities and events, c.1925-1955, State Library of NSW

McLoughlin, T.J.B., photograph, March 1946; digital image 2015, privately held by Alex Daw, Chapel Hill, Queensland, 2015.

McLoughlin, T.J.B., identity card, April 1942, privately held by Alex Daw, Chapel Hill, Queensland, 2015.

McLoughlin, T.J.B., (Summer Hill, NSW) TO  “Dear Barbara, Jim & Alex” [Barbara, Jim and Alex Conner], letter, 27 February 1975; Daw Family Papers, 1959-, privately held by Alex Daw, Chapel Hill, Queensland 2015

McLoughlin, T.J.B., statement regarding employment and accident at C.A.C., located in 1975 correspondence to daughter, privately held by Alex Daw, Chapel Hill, Queensland, 2015.

Malcolm, George D., Australia has wings, A Department of Information film made by the Commonwealth Film Laboratory for the National Film Council of the Motion Picture Industry, 1940-1941 accessed 8 February 2015

National Archives of Australia: 2 Echelon, Army Headquarters; B884 Citizen Military Forces Personnel Dossiers, 1939-1947; N468311MCLOUGHLIN THOMAS JOSEPH BENEDICT : Service Number - N468311 : Date of birth - 07 Jul 1898 : Place of birth - BATHURST NSW : Place of enlistment - NSW : Next of Kin - MCLOUGHLIN KATHERINE 1939 – 1948

National Archives of Australia: Defence Estate Organisation, Sydney West Regional Centre; sp16/4; Property files for sites in NSW hired or acquired for the Department of Defence during World War II, 01 Jan 1940 - 31 Dec 1948];771 Hire of Room 4, 6th Floor, Grand United Building, 149 Castlereagh Street Sydney by the Australian Military Forces. Property owned by the Grand United Order of Oddfellows and required as office accommodation by the Army Inspection Branch

National Archives of Australia: Department of Defence [III], Central Office; MP450/1; Development of the manufacture of aircraft engines in Australia and matters associated therewith -[Notation by DAP, 16 August 1943, on twin row Wasp engine production, Lidcombe] 1943-1943

NSW Marriage Certificate 1934/14009 Waverley Municipality Thomas Joseph Benedict Mcloughlin and Katherine Helen Forfar

NSW Birth Certificate 1935/3647 Drummoyne Municipality Barbara Helen McLoughlin

1940 'Advertising.', The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), 23 November, p. 12, viewed 1 February, 2015,

Secondary Sources :

Heald , H. For England's Sake. History Today [serial online]. October 2014;64(10):28-35. Available from: Australia/New Zealand Reference Centre, Ipswich, MA. Accessed February 1, 2015.

Hill, B. , Wirraway to Hornet: A History of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation Pty Ltd 1936 to 1985 (Melbourne, 1998)
accessed 8 February 2015

Not Determined


Helen Connor said...

Wow Alex, well done

Alex Daw said...

Thanks Helen - it was a lot of fun if not deeply moving at times. I have to say at times I felt like hands from the past were helping me along the way.

Jill Ball said...

You are an excellent Hangout participant. You look good, sound good and contribute valuable inof and opinions.

Alex Daw said...

Dear Jill Thank you! You are very kind and a fabulous genemate :)