Thursday, March 31, 2016

What's On - Friday 1 April - Thursday 7 April 2016

Welcome to this week's calendar of local and family history events for Brisbane and surrounding areas. Anyone who knows me well will know that I am a dead cert for registration for the QFHS seminar this Saturday with Jenny Joyce about family history photographs.  From dating your photos, to organising them and keeping them safe, I can't wait for Saturday!

Other events this week include a local history night at Annerley library featuring the history of Yeronga State School, a conservation clinic at State Library of Queensland and a talk at Ashgrove Library about the evacuation of Gallipoli.  I haven't been to the Museum of Brisbane for a while and was interested to see that they have a new exhibition coming up called Facing World War One.

Also, if you belong to a society or museum that needs help with preserving your collection you might want to think about applying for a Community Heritage Grant funded by the Australian Government through the National Library of Australia.  To find out more go here.

Please let me know if there is something you think I should highlight in these weekly calendars won't you?

Enjoy your week!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A to Z theme reveal

Okay - it is well and truly time for me to reveal my theme for this, my first participation in the A to Z challenge.  I thought I would be the last to sign up for sure, being number 1459 - but there are now 1612 bloggers who have signed up for the festival.  It's not too late to join in.  There are 6 days left.

So, my theme is all things Naval or the Navy.  I am researching my great-grandfather and my great-great-grandfather and their time working for the Royal Navy.  

I will be looking at everything from ships to job descriptions and from records to places so....grab your cutlass and standby for some fun.  I hope you find the posts helpful for your own family history research or at the least amusing and/or interesting.

391. B. Young British Seaman - Cutlass Drill (c.1905)

Creative Commons Licence here.  Found on Flickr

Friday, March 25, 2016

HMS Waterwitch

The survey vessel HMS Waterwitch, during steam trial, Stokes Bay [Portsmouth], June 1894 Source Hume Family Collection, UQ Fryer Library 10, Album 11, Page 23 Copyright expired

My father is currently cruising around the South and East China Sea and it reminded me that 115 years ago, his grandfather was also sailing in that general area on a very different kind of boat.   Edwin Conner was on board the HMS Waterwitch.  

Wikipedia records several incarnations of the HMS Waterwitch.  This one is the one that fits my ancestor's timeline.  Edwin Conner's service record shows him being on board from 12 March 1910 to 4 April 1911.  I have spent much of today trying to determine what HMS Waterwitch was up to at that time.

But first, a bit of background.

According to this meaty little article found on Trove, HMS Waterwitch was purchased by the Royal Navy from the Messrs James in 1893 for £10,000 and re-fitted and altered to suit her new purpose - hydrographic surveying.  She made her way to the Australian station from Portsmouth in August 1894 and reached Hobart in early 1895.

In 1898 she was transferred to the China Station.  

Edwin was on board when the 1911 Census was taken on 2nd April.  The HMS Waterwitch was moored alongside the wharf HM Dockyard, Hong Kong.  It was under the command of Lieutenant and Commander Reginald Lionel Hancock. Hancock was quite young I think, if these website biographies here and here are accurate - just 30 years old.  In fact, my great-grandfather was the oldest person on board at the age of 41. The average age was 26.  

The census shows that there were 78 men on board HMS Waterwitch, including nine Chinese and two from Hong Kong.  Three of the latter were stokers and the rest were servants for the Officers - stewards, cooks and a musician.  The musician Ah Yek was the same age as my great-grandfather.  I wonder what instrument he played.  There was only one Australian on board Richard Blakey James aged 28 from Melbourne.  There were three Scots and the rest were English.  

My great-grandfather listed his religion as Wesleyan, of which there were eight.  There were three Roman Catholics, three Presbyterians, one United Free Church of Scotland and one Salvationist. The rest were Church of England with the exception of the men from China and Hong Kong who did not have their religion recorded.

Married men like my great-grandfather were in the minority - 23 out of the 78.

I cheerfully confess not to being an authority on the hierarchy of the Royal Navy, but looking at the census taken on that day, I like to think that my great-grandfather was probably pretty much in charge of the lower deck as Chief Engine Room Artificer, 1st class.  There were two Engine Room Artificers-2nd class listed beneath him on the census form as well as a Stoker, Petty Officer, five Stokers - 1st class, a Leading Stoker, a Blacksmith, a Carpenter's Mate and a Leading Shipwright as well as an Armourer's mate.  There were also seven staff of the Royal Marine Light Infantry or RMLI.

According to this site, Engine Room Artificers were introduced by Order of Council in March 1868.  My great-grandfather's career in the Royal Navy didn't commence until 4 December 1890 when he was just shy of 21 years of age.  He is described on his record as a fitter and turner.  There seems to have been quite a strict hierarchical system in the Navy and while Admiral Fisher talked about the "one Navy" and breaking down social barriers, An Illustrated History of the Royal Navy alludes to a supposed exchange between two cadets at the Royal Naval College, where the potential officer says to the potential engineer "I don't care what the Admiralty says, my Mama would not have your Mama to tea."  You can lead a horse to water and all that.....The rank of Artificer was phased out recently according to this article.

Edwin Conner

You can read about the kind of uniform my great-grandfather would have worn here. Chief Engine Room Artificers only wore three buttons on the cuff. Edwin would have been earning about £118 per annum or about £12, 500 today. Engine Room Artificers also ate in a separate mess hall by themselves..."Nobody wanted oily overalls in the wardroom." (Winton, p. 103)

There is some very interesting information about the examinations of candidates for engineering in the Navy here.  Edwin would have had to know about arithmetic, orthography, French, Euclid, geography, algebra, trigonometry, hydrostatics, mechanics, dynamics, chemistry and the properties of steam, amongst other things.  I'm ashamed to say I didn't know what orthography was. The definition is here.

But - back to HMS Waterwitch.  If you search The London Gazette for the HMS Waterwitch you will find reference to a couple of Hydrographic Notes from 1910.  One is Hydrographic Note 3 about a shoal ridge south westward of Alligator Island in the Singapore Main Strait of the China Sea.  You can see it here.  The other is Hydrographic Note 4 and is about a shoal at Salat Sinki on the Western approach to Singapore in the China Sea.  You can see the note here.

Searching the 19th Century British Newspapers collection (which, by the way, has a coverage til 1950) using my National Library of Australia membership card, I found in the Courier & Argus (Dundee) under the headline Movements of Warships the following records of the HMS Waterwitch

5 May 1910 Waterwitch left Camrauh (I think this must mean Cam Ranh Bay)
3 December 1910 Waterwitch left Singapore
23 December 1910 Waterwitch at Hong Kong
30 May Waterwitch 1911 left Hong Kong for Singapore (by this time my great-grandfather had boarded Victory II)

Here is a map so you can get an idea of the area I am talking about.

I know that HMS Waterwitch doesn't really look like a warship but of course she was doing very important work for the Navy.  Knowing the waters you were sailing in and having good charts was a distinct advantage in warfare.  The Royal Navy was going through a challenging time.  Other countries were building their fleets - U.S.A., Japan, France, Russia and of course Germany.  

Paul Kennedy notes that 
"in 1883 the number of British battleships almost equalled the total of all the other powers combinedn (thirty-eght to forty); by 1897 this comfortable ratio had shrivelled away (sixty-two to ninety-six)." (Kennedy, p.209)
The policy of 'splendid isolation' was dropped in favour of an alliance with Japan in 1902 and renewed in 1911.

The stations around the world were becoming increasingly difficult to supply in the face of perceived threats at home and the colonialists more nervous about the Navy's capacity to defend their shores. Australians wanted their own Navy and were chary of paying for one that they couldn't control as they pleased. (Kennedy, p. 221) (Bach, p.190)

Back to the Waterwitch!  Other articles which helped in my research were obtained from the National Library of Singapore, once again accessed through my National Library of Australia account and has a digital archive of newspapers published between 1831 and 2009.  

From the Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser we learn that Lieutenant and Commander Hancock had been on surveying duties for the past three or four years on the Fantome before taking command of the Waterwitch.  

The Vessels in Port column from The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser on 31 May 1910 shows that HMS Waterwitch had arrived in port on 24 May.  

The Straits Times reported her stuck near Sultan Shoal on 7 November 1910 but she came off before noon the next day.  

As noted previously, my great-grandfather left HMS Waterwitch 10 July 1911. He and his family moved to Melbourne in 1912 and he joined the R.A.N. 9 March, serving on the Penguin.  It was just as well really because HMS Waterwitch was rammed and sunk by the Governor's yacht Sea Mew in Singapore Harbour on 1 September 1912.  (Colledge, p. 377) 

The description of the accident bears a remarkable resemblance to the Greycliffe disaster in Sydney Harbour in 1927 in which Edwin finally lost his life. 

HMS Waterwitch was run down on the port-side just before midday and sank shortly after.  She was salvaged and put up for sale by the Navy the following month. Two men died as a result of the accident on HMS Waterwitch - a Royal Marine called Daniel Sturgess R.M.L.I. No. (Plymouth) 9,465 and a Chinese officer's steward, 2nd class.  (I have tried to find the latter's name but to no avail so far).  It is thought the latter went back to the boatswain's cabin to fetch something and drowned. Surviving crew were taken home on the Prometheus and Pegasus 9 October.  

If you want to read about the Greycliffe disaster on my blog go here.  Steve Brew's book is also worth reading.

Things to follow up:  Ian Nicholson's Log of Logs refers to a Log of HMS Waterwitch for 1912 in the Australian Archives Sydney.  

And to link this post loosely to the Sepia Saturday theme this week, I say to you  - Battleships!  But seriously, if you want to see what Sailors might have played on board ship, check out this site here. (Language warning for the more sensitive souls) I've never heard of Uckers, have you?.  I think marbles would be too tricky on deck.  I think singing would be easier.  Here's a ditty that my father taught me when I was young.  My mother was deeply suspicious of it and thought it not quite proper.

   Is he an Aussie 
              Is he an Aussie Lizzie is he?
          Is he an Aussie Lizzie eh?
          Is it because he is an Aussie, that he keeps you busy Lizzie?
          Has he jazzy wazzy ways that make you go all fuzzy wuzzy?
          Got you dizzy, has he Lizzie?
          Is he an Aussie Lizzie eh?

Oh and look what I found on the wunnerful web. This and the you tube video below so you know how it's sung.


Bach, John The Australia Station - A History of the Royal Navy in the South West Pacific 1821-1913 NSW University Press, Kensington, 1986

Brew, S, Greycliffe - Stolen Lives, Navarine Publishing, Woden, 2006.

Colledge, J.J., Ships of the Royal Navy - The Complete Record of all Fighting Ships of the Royal Navy from the Fifteenth Century to the Present Call Num M3 5 2 at QFHS Library

Movements of Warships
The Courier and Argus (Dundee, Scotland), Monday, May 09, 1910; pg. 4; Issue 17754. British Newspapers, Part IV: 1780-1950. 

Movements of Warships and Torpedo Boats . 

The Courier and Argus (Dundee, Scotland), Wednesday, December 07, 1910; pg. 7; Issue 17936. British Newspapers, Part IV: 1780-1950. 

Movements of Warships . 

The Courier and Argus (Dundee, Scotland), Monday, December 26, 1910; pg. 2; Issue 17952. British Newspapers, Part IV: 1780-1950.

Movements of Warships and Torpedo Boats . 

The Courier and Argus (Dundee, Scotland), Saturday, June 03, 1911; pg. 6; Issue 18089. British Newspapers, Part IV: 1780-1950. 

Kennedy, Paul The Rise and Fall of British Naval Mastery, Penguin, 2001w Current Topics
Launceston Examiner, Tuesday 19 July 1898, page 4 Retrieved March 25, 2016 from

National Archives of Australia CONNER EDWIN : Service Number - 2103 : Date of birth - 25 Dec 1869 : Place of birth - PORTSMOUTH ENGLAND : Place of enlistment - Unknown : Next of Kin - CONNER ELEONOR Series A6770 Barcode 4409385

The National Archives (U.K.) Admiralty: Royal Navy Registers of Seamen's Services- ADM/188/222/153861

Nicholson, Ian Log of Logs, page 579 Call no. A3 5 8 Vol 1 at QFHS Library

Page 8 Advertisements Column 2, 
The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942) 12 October 1912, page 8 Retrieved March 25, 2016  National Library Board Singapore

Sinking of H.M.S. Waterwitch
The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942), 5 September 1912, page 156 Retrieved March 25, 2016 National Library board Singapore

The Waterwitch Wreck
The Straits Times, 3 September 1912, page 7 Retrieved March 25, 2016 National Library Board Signapore.

The Straits Times, 10 October 1912, p.8, Retrieved March 25, 2016 National Library Board Singapore

ARRIVAL OF H.M.S. WATERWITCH. (1895, April 13). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), , p. 8. Retrieved March 20, 2016, from

British War Vessel Sunk

The Times (London, England), Monday, Sep 02, 1912, pg. 8 Issue 39993

Winton, John, An Illustrated History of the Royal Navy, Conway Maritime Press, London, 2005

Thursday, March 24, 2016

What's On - Friday 25th March - Thursday 31st March 2016

Fry's Chocolate Advertising - Fry's produced the first chocolate Easter Egg in the UK in 1873 according to Paul Townsend on Flickr here. Some rights are reserved on this photo.  You can see the Creative Commons licence here.

Guess what folks?  It's Good Friday tomorrow so there's very little to show on our calendar this week.  

The gazetted public holidays for Queensland are Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Easter Monday. This means GSQ will be closed all weekend as they don't have any special interest groups on Sunday.  QFHS Central European Group will be meeting on Saturday and the topic will be Easter traditions and customs. 

Moreton Bay Region Library services will be closed for the four days.  Brisbane City Council Libraries will also be closed for the four days.  State Library of Queensland will be closed on Good Friday but open on other days, so all is not lost.

But you know what this's an excellent time to catch up with your family! Or to keep ploughing on with family history research.  Hoorah!  Or to take yourself on some historical trails around the Brisbane or Moreton or Ipswich.  

And don't forget that the Medieval Power exhibition at the Queensland Museum closes in a couple of weeks.  Curated by the British Museum, the Queensland Museum is the first museum in the world to host this new exhibition.  The Museum will be closed Good Friday but is open the rest of the weekend.

I seem to be absorbed in all things nautical this week and am working on a post about my great-grandfather in the Royal Navy.  Speaking of things nautical, it looks like there is an interesting talk coming up at the Wynnum Library next Thursday about the Mirimar.  Local Historian Myrtle Beitz will tell the tales of this Brisbane icon. Here is an account of the Mirimar from the back of a photo in the Picture Queensland collection:
The Mirimar was built in 1934 and took over the service to Bribie Island via Redcliffe from the 'Koopa' and 'Doomba'. The Mirimar was taken over by the navy during World War II for use in the Brisbane and Moreton Bay region.
There's a nice post about her here on one of my favourite blogs.  A sad story here in 2012.  She was last spotted by this photographer in 2014.  It would be interesting to know whether funds have been found for her restoration.

Mirimar - courtesy of John Oxley Library State Library of Queensland - out of copyright

Whatever you choose to do over Easter, I hope it is enjoyable and safe. 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

What's On - Friday 18th March to Thursday 23rd March 2016

Source: Cropped from frontispiece of The rogues' gallery: portraits from life of burglars, receivers, forgers, cracksmen, smashers, bank sneaks, house thieves, swell mobsmen, pickpockets, swindlers, & tricksters / by the authors of 'Police!' C.T. Clarkson and J.H. Richardson ; illustrated by Harry Parkes (London: Field & Tuer, the Leadenhall Press, E.C., 1890); 18 cm. Call # Juvenile 0166 Link to licence Link to picture on Flickr

Can you believe that it's Easter next week?  Plenty to choose from this week as we head down the slippery slope - from Nobblers and cracksmen to Australian women and their professions.

And don't miss the tour at the Queensland State Archives if you haven't been on one before.  Nancy and I were lucky to catch one last Saturday.  We weren't allowed to take photos but I can tell you that the vellichor was magnificent.  (Thanks to the  Maleny Bookshop that put me on to that term) And yes, I know, that State Archives isn't a bookshop but you get what I'm saying, I'm sure.  

A very big thank you to Cynthia and her team at Queensland State Archives for making our day a busy yet satisfying one....more of that in another blog post...I'm still wading my way through all the digital images !

Thursday, March 10, 2016

What's On - Friday 11th March to Thursday 17th March 2016

You never know what you might find unless you get out from behind that computer screen and out into the real world yes?  Which is why Nancy and I are heading off to the Queensland State Archives this Saturday for their Saturday opening from 9am til 4:30pm.  We will be thoroughly organised, of course, and will have searched the catalogue for what we want.  While we can't pre-order items before we go, at least we will be "hot to trot" as they say.  

This is Nancy's first visit, so she will need to bring two forms of identification with her (one containing a signature) to obtain her researcher ID card.  She will also have to fill out this form.  Anyone who knows me well will know that I tend to cart around everything but the kitchen sink in my handbag.  Archives are quite strict about what you can and can't take into the Reading Room, so I won't be taking my handbag.  But I can take a USB, a camera (with flash disabled), my mobile phone (with flash disabled and turned to silent), my laptop or iPad and a pencil or two and of course my glasses.  You can find the list of what you can and can't take here.  We'll need to bring some small change with us too to pay for photocopying...charges are listed here.  And remember to bring $1 coin for the lockers.  You can see how lovely the facilities are here.

Can you tell I'm quite excited?  There's lots of other stuff happening to this week...from talks on Huguenots to colonial politicians.  Check out the calendar below.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Sepia Saturday 320: 5 March 2016

Alan Burnett from Sepia Saturday says:

A public fountain in Queretaro, Mexico. Wheelbarrows that look like a left-over prop from the Flintstones carrying pottery jars that would not be out of place on an archaeological dig. And let us not forget the hats that look a little like traffic cones. There are a number of potential themes you might want to highlight in this week's Sepia Saturday theme image (which comes from the Flickr stream of Cornell University). All you need to do is to post an old image and some new thoughts on or around Saturday 5th March 2016 and then add a link to the list below.

Well, I wonder how many of us are going to use the Trevi fountain today?

I haven't been to Mexico, but I have been to Rome - does that count?  And yes, I am wearing socks with sandals.  I was dressed by my mother - that's my excuse.  And yes, I will never be wearing a dress that short again!

This is an extract from my mother's letter to her father shortly after our sojourn in Italy in June 1971.

"Rome was an entirely successful week.  We walked everywhere - miles & miles.  Great way to see the place, much better than the car. We ended up exhausted each day of course and slept most afternoons.  Very hot but not unpleasant if you don't try and do too much after lunch.  We stayed in a bed & breakfast place in a cheap quarter and bought bread, cheese & wine for one meal & had one other main meal.  Finally saw the Sistine Chapel - wasn't at all what I expected.  It's not treated like a chapel at all & they are usually so particular about those things."

I remember having to wear a scarf when we went into churches in Europe.  Do they do that now still I wonder?  And we were trying to live on $10 a day.  Do you remember those books?  Europe on $10 a day.  That was our bible.  

Here's another not so public fountain which I don't think exists anymore...I have blogged about this place before here.  We think it is at the De Havilland engine factory at Birnie Avenue Lidcombe during World War II.

I think having looked at other books/websites about De Havilland I have noticed that water features were an important part of the landscaping at Hatfield in the UK too.  

You can read more about Lidcombe and the Commonwealth Aircraft Factory at the Dictionary of Sydney here.  And this site has some good information too.

Anyway, that's my two bob's worth this fountains are more for decoration than usefulness as such.  

I hope to return to the Trevi fountain one day...I certainly made sure I left coins in there the last time.  I don't think we will ever be able to return to the fountains in Lidcombe though.  I'm pretty sure they don't exist anymore.  The site sold for $5.12million in 1996 according to this article.

Which fountain do you hope to see again in your lifetime?

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Another piece of the puzzle...

Did you like doing jigsaw puzzles when you were a child?  I did.  I'm such a hoarder that I have even kept my favourites...I have very fond memories of a Mary Poppins jigsaw and I even have one of the Oriana, the ship we went overseas in when I was a baby.  That's the ship's prow you can see next to the passenger terminal at Circular Quay in that piece just above....if you turned the piece anti-clockwise you would see it better....

Well, I found another piece of my family history jigsaw puzzle last night - quite unexpectedly, whilst looking for something else...isn't it always the way?  

You may remember, that this time last year, I was researching my maternal grandfather's working life - Thomas Joseph Benedict McLoughlin.  One of the "bits" that eluded me was what happened between school and his eventual employment at the Commonwealth Aircraft Factory in the 1940s.  Tom did very well at school and I've blogged about that before, finding several newspaper articles which mentioned it.

Last night I punched "T. McLoughlin" into Trove and found two more articles describing what happened to Tom in 1915.  On 2 June 1915 The Leader in Orange published that my grandfather had recently passed his examination for the Commonwealth Public Service and received an appointment to the Home Affairs Office.  He wasn't able to take advantage of it for a few days, owing to ill-health.  

1915 'Personal.', Leader (Orange, NSW : 1912 - 1922), 2 June, p. 4. , viewed 05 Mar 2016,

On Friday 25 June, The Leader reports again that Tom, a student of Croagh Patrick Boys' College was appointed to a junior clerkship in the Customs Department.  

1915 'Personal.', Leader (Orange, NSW : 1912 - 1922), 25 June, p. 4. , viewed 05 Mar 2016,

Tom would have been 16 at the time - very nearly 17 as he was born in July 1898.

There seems to be some confusion doesn't there, as to whether he is working for the Home Affairs office or the Customs Department?   Hmmm.  Now of course I have a whole new trail to explore.  

According to an old book on my shelf called Finding Families - The Guide to the National Archives of Australia for Genealogists published in 1998, the following might be useful.

Commonwealth of Australia Gazette

Public Service Board Records

A6198 - volumes of candidates' result lists for public service examinations 1903-70 (Canberra)

Department of Trade and Customs

CP595/1 - officers' history cards 1901-54 (Canberra)

SP418/1 - salary registers for NSW staff 1895-1930 (Sydney)

C4343 - some staff history files 1827-1988 (Sydney)

Department of Home Affairs

A173 - history cards of departmental personnel 1912-25 (Canberra)

Gotta say this is one happy little Duck.  Wish me luck in my research.

Oh and for those of you who wanted to see the Oriana in all its glory in the 1960s and the Cruise Passenger Terminal, here's the old puzzle - appropriately enough missing a few pieces!

Yep....I know...incredibly daggy....but there you are.....looks a bit like my brain, I'm sure ! :)

Thursday, March 3, 2016

What's On - Friday 4th March - Thursday 10th March 2016

It's the little things in life that make it special isn't it?  Like weekends with a friend.  Not that my friend is especially little.  But Loani is very thoughtful and puts little touches like flowers in the bathroom as pictured above.  

Oh yes, and I survived my first foray into teaching.  Of course I wish I had done a better job.  I was sick with nervousness beforehand - but thankfully had my brother-in-law and sister-in-law to wish me well and toast my good health on my return to their abode.  Thanks Pat and Terry for "putting me up" or "putting up with me" while we roll out this first Beginners course at QFHS. We already have 5 people on the wait-list for the next one.  How about that?

But the BIG news in town this week is that Judy Russell (known as the Legal Genealogist) and Carol Baxter (known as the History Detective and internationally acclaimed and award-winning author specialising in genealogy and history) will be presenting a one-day seminar on Circumstantial evidence - DNA ethics - research strategies on Saturday.  If you book TODAY you will receive a great discount... $39.50 full day, $29.50 half day.  If you leave it any later than today, then you'll pay the prices as follows: $50 full day, $35 half day.  So don't delay!  To book, click here.  Thanks to dear Gould Genealogy and Unlock the Past for putting this on and making available some of the great speakers on the Unlock the Past cruises for the land-lubbers that can't or won't go cruising.

Want a walk in the great outdoors this weekend?  Why not try out the new Heritage Trail from Brisbane City Council? Wander through Wynnum.  For more information click here.

Here's a little overview of what's on in the south east corner of Queensland this week, family history wise. I hope you have a great week.