Wednesday’s Handy Research Hint

Only those of a certain age would remember using the letter/number combination codes for suburbs in Melbourne, Victoria… codes like E 7 – which is Canterbury (now 3126).  If you remember them, you might not remember to what suburb or area they referred. I remember seeing letters where no suburb was given in the address, just the letter/number code.

If, like me, you love trawling through the Electoral Rolls for information on the long past whereabouts of your ancestors, addresses using this form of postal code were common in the period from the late 1920’s up to 1967.  In 1967, postal codes as are used today were introduced.

Perhaps you have some old correspondence: letters, postcards, bills, receipts – anything that might have an address on it using these codes instead of the suburb name.

What does the code mean?

So how do you know what letter/number combination referred to what suburb?

Well, folks, Wikipedia to the rescue! They have this great entry listing suburbs and codes ….. problem solved!

Letter/Number postal codes – Melbourne, Vic

From the site:

War service takes many forms…..

I follow, with interest, the blog of ‘GP COX’ called ‘Pacific Paratrooper’  – it had captured my attention some time ago as it was a blog that reflected, as the title suggests, the Pacific theatre operations in WW2.  It’s an area of war history that is sometimes overlooked but it’s one that has had a profound effect on Australia and its people.

This theatre of war came right to our doorstep – Broome, Darwin and Sydney were all in receipt of Japanese ‘interest’ during the War.  Things might well have turned out  differently for Australia, had the Japanese actions not been repelled.

I was also interested to read about this action as several relatives including my former father-in-law served in this theatre of operations.  Some did not make it home.

Major Clarence Barton Dawkins, graduate of Royal Military College Duntroon, died in Singapore. His older brother, Lieutenant William Henry Dawkins, was also a graduate of the College and had been killed in WW1 at Gallipoli.

G.P. Cox’s most recent post summarises well the British Commonwealth Occupation Forces – Japan – a part of the Australian war service and history that is often overlooked. It reminded me that my mother talked often as to how my uncle had badgered his mother to let him sign up. Eventually he managed a permission form somehow (I suspect not legally) and off he went. It was as a member of the BCOF- Japan he was posted.

This image, dated 1946, is a tiny photo of Frank taken reflected in the window of a shop – the original is smaller than the reproduction on this page (it measures barely 4cm long).  To me, this is the equivalent of a modern ‘selfie’. 

Frank sent his mother another image that has survived – with an annotation on the back giving his regiment, HQ Sigs, based in Kure.

The photo was obviously double exposed but I’m guessing any mother would be pleased to see her son in reasonable shape when he was so far away.

Reverse: A search for Frank’s enlistment and service record details on the NAA website reveals nothing and I have always wondered whether he enlisted under a false name – which is quite likely knowing what a rapscallion he was! Other Australian military researchers who had specialised in this area told me he, in his real name, isn’t on any lists as having been part of the BCOF they have; so it’s looking more and more likely he used some deception to get there.

Born in 1927, Frank would have been just 18 or 19 when he first went to Japan. He told me when I was young, he spent two years there – he learned a little of the language and used it on odd occasions when, as a teenager, I stayed with he and his wife. He must have admitted to his deception at some point, as later in life he was admitted to the R.S.L. as a former serving member, and he received government veteran health care support when he became ill.

Photography and film technology always intrigued him and, in the 60’s particularly,  it was not uncommon to find him staggering in at all hours, having been out filming and processing newsreel footage for television stations. His years with the Education Department saw him work in the Audio Visual unit (AVEC) making films.  Later years saw him with a ‘retirement’ career as a film and TV actor and extra and small investor in the Australian film industry.

I can’t confirm his enlistment and I can’t ask him as he passed away in 2008.

One of these days, I might uncover those records that tell the official version of his service but, in the meantime, I like to remember ‘that man‘ who was a significant and wickedly mischievous influence on my life.


Accentuate the positive…..2019

Jill Ball (aka GeniAus) has thrown out the challenge to take a good hard but positive look at what we, as genealogists, have achieved over the past year.

Not one to shy away from a challenge and not having undertaken a major do-over this summer holiday, I thought this might just do the trick instead.

1.  An elusive ancestor I found was…..a family line I was unaware of in USA – the result of having undertaken my first foray into the wilds of DNA testing. Hello, McNew.

2.  A great newspaper article I found was…..a simple death notice that opened up all the information I needed to pin down an elusive ‘Smith’.

3.  A geneajourney I took was….. to Queensland to attend “Waves in Time” – family history conference

4.  I locate an important record…. or set of records…. Didn’t think I would actually need to be researching in South Africa but you never know where those elusive ancestors will take you.  The University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg has a fantastic digitised archive of church and parish records….

5.  A geneasurprise I received was….. to uncover the location of some missing WW1 medals.  It answered questions as to what had happened to them after the death of their last custodian in 2008.

6.   My 2019 social media post that I was particularly proud of was….. My blog post about Lumpers 

7.   I made a new genimate who…..makes me laugh!

8.  A new piece of technology or skill I mastered was…. Can’t say that I totally mastered it but I really rather enjoyed a new platform for recording my coursework at UTAS as part of the Diploma of Sustainable Living.

9. I joined…. a couple of new Facebook groups

10. A genealogy education session or event from which I learnt something new was…. DNA DownUnder – 🤯 – still trying to work through all that information!

11. A blog post that taught me something new was… any of the blog posts from Heathcote Pursuit’s wonderful blog “Forgotten Australian Actors”
– I look forward to reading about all these people and to explore just how their stories are researched and compiled.  Every post is a ‘lesson’ in research and writing.

12. A DNA discovery I made was…. how much less ‘European’ I am than I expected.

13. I taught a genimate how to….. blog.

14. A brick wall I demolished was …. not even thought of as being a brick wall – it was just a line of inquiry I was yet to focus on when serendipitously some information just opened it all up and laid it out to be explored.

15. A great site I visited was…. TROVE!  What can I say?  I’ve been an enthusiastic user (and corrector) for years and it is still THE BEST site for Australian research.

16. A new genealogy/history book I enjoyed was…. Peter Ewer’s Forgotten ANZACs 

My grandfather served in the campaign in Greece and Crete in WW2 and was captured on Crete.  This book allowed me some insight into his wartime experience before capture and Ian Ramsay’s book P.O.W. filled in some of the gaps after capture.

17. It was exciting to finally meet….. Michelle Patient

18. I am excited for 2020 because…. I have plans to attend a couple of conferences in OZ, I have a geneatrip planned for New Zealand and I have more study to undertake.

19. Another positive I would like to share is … How some of us can’t help helping others and where would we be without them? What a mammoth task Jill undertook to collate all the searchable databases of Australian cemeteries.  I enjoyed being able to pull together the lists and sources I had to aid in bringing together this information in one location.  Thanks, Jill.

Other responses to Jill’s challenge can be found here…..Accentuate the Positive

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks!

I must admit to be somewhat haphazard in my approach to writing about my research.  I have often been asked if I am recording the stories I uncover or if I plan to put all my research into a book.

I have used this blog to record some of those stories – very occasionally! I have sometimes recorded the adventures and results of researching for others as well.  However, there has never been an organised or thorough approach to my writing.  I have been aware that many of my fellow alumni from the UTAS Family History Diploma course have undertaken and completed books or contributed articles to compilations.  One of the most often sighted strategies my writing genie friends have adopted has been signing up to a year long writing prompt ‘group’ like Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks”. 

So folks/readers/family….. I’ve bitten the bullet and taken on this challenge for 2020.  Maybe, by the end of the year, I will have drawn together enough material to consider publishing something, whether as an ebook or privately published paper number.

You will find my weekly contributions on a separate section of my Blog – look for the tab in the right hand column : 52 Weeks.

If your writing needs are different, your aim a finished title and you appreciate a face to face class setting, why not try Hazel Edwards’ year long masterclass at the Public Record Office Victoria. Or perhaps you would like to fine tune some of your specific skills? The Australian Writers Centre offers online and face to face courses: see their list of courses here. I have been a subscriber to their free email newsletter for several years and find it a handy resource in its own right.

Whatever path you take or discipline structure you employ, all those stories need to be preserved, shared, explored, told and enjoyed, so please sharpen your pencil, change your typewriter ribbon or dust off your keyboard and get started.

Wish me luck! (Or join me and thousands of others, if you dare!)

Writing your history…

Have you considered the importance of telling your own story?  Many family historians and genealogists are turning their research into blog posts and books, contributions to their Society’s journals or magazines.  Some contribute to the journals of organisations like Public Record Office Victoria.

Many of us have struggled with the ‘how, why, what and when’ of telling those stories that have fascinated us whilst we tracked down our antecedents.  There are plenty of articles and books out there that can help with the means – my favourite is “Writing a Non-Boring Family History” by Hazel Edwards.

But not all of us want to commit to a book.  Some of us take a different path and, in doing so, contribute something quite special to the lives of many.

This obituary appeared in the Boxing Day edition of The Age newspaper:

William Antony Cole Rudd Dec 7, 1917 – Oct 29, 2019

I’m a regular reader of these obituaries – I have discovered moving stories, fascinating pasts revealed, talented people and often unrecognised heroes.  Some stories have prompted me to look further into the person being remembered and celebrated.  Bill Rudd’s story was one that I just had to follow as his family’s words had entranced me.

Within the obituary was a link to a website – this website documented Bill’s research into WW2 POWs.  Having a family member who was captured on Crete and incarcerated in various Stalags throughout the remaining years of the European war, I was intrigued to find another resource that could expand on my limited knowledge of this period and of the experiences of those serving whilst imprisoned.

Service photo of Bill Rudd – Australians at War Film Archive

As Bill pointed out on his website, many servicemen’s records contained scant detail of their POW experience, most especially of those who were escapees or evaders of recapture.  This remarkable resource brings together little known official records together with the first hand accounts of former service personnel and Bill’s own meticulous research to tell a story that many of us would otherwise never hear or learn about.

The website includes a database (as a downloadable .pdf file) of the names of Australian service personnel who escaped and evaded recapture in the European theatre during WW2.  Perhaps a member of your family is on that list?

I commend to you, fellow researchers and Genies, especially if you are seeking more information about a relative’s (prisoner of) war time experience.  I commend this site to you as an example of just how one person can make a significant contribution to our understanding of the past.

If you are interested to read more about the work and life of this remarkable man:

ABC Interview

Jim Clavan’s Story 

Australians at War Film Archive

Il Globo Article


Are you planning to travel to attend conferences next year?

In the lead up to Christmas we tend to get caught up in trying to find suitable gifts for family members. The genealogists in your family will certainly appreciate gifts that extend their capacity to research….

There always seems to be a big push on DNA kits at Christmas …. anyone who has had their DNA done, will know from working through their ‘matches’ that there are heaps of people who have taken tests given as gifts, logged on to see what the result is and done nothing more with their information.  How frustrating is this if you get a very close match and they don’t respond to message contact?  Likely there are others out there who have been given the tests and put them into a bottom draw somewhere and not tested at all. Despite this,  perhaps now is the time to pick up a kit or two as there’s a sale on Ancestry (Australia) kits that finishes on 2nd Dec., 2109.

Why not ask for or suggest to your nearest and dearest that you would like them to shout you a conference registration?

I’ve just ‘early bird’ registered for Unlock the Past’s newest offering: I’ll be attending the Melbourne event on March 23, 2020. Early Bird registration is open until 15 December so this is a good time to get some Christmas shopping done as it is just a month away and this event, four months.

If your nearest and dearest are feeling especially generous, they could perhaps send you genealogy cruising instead…… This link will take you to Unlock the Past’s 17th Cruise:  Adelaide to Tasmania 

Want to try something even more adventurous?  Then, its off to the US for Rootstech 2020 – February 27 – 29, 2020! You wouldn’t be alone as there are heaps of other Aussies who make the pilgrimage to this huge event each year.

If forward planning is your thing, then definitely note down this event in the diary: Riding the Waves of History  This conference takes place in September 2020 in New Lambton, Newcastle, NSW.  Sign up for their newsletter or register your interest in being a conference speaker at this event.

So, I’ve listed just a few ideas and I have already made one selection for myself (the Beyond BMDs Conference) What else would I like?  My Geni wish list includes a limited edition family history of the Doveton family published in 1973 in South Africa.  I’ve found a copy available for sale but I’m struggling to spend the close on $AU500 it would take to buy and ship it here… 😔

There’s sure to be more conference opportunities to add to this list and other Geni gifts that would suit …. What would you like to see in your Christmas stocking?

It’s a Furphy

“Furphy” is such a wonderful word ….. and it’s origins in the Australian lexicon have always intrigued me.

A furphy is Australian slang for an erroneous or improbable story that is claimed to be factual. Furphies are supposedly ‘heard’ from reputable sources, sometimes secondhand or third hand, and widely believed until discounted. The word is said to derive from water carts designed and made by a company established by John Furphy of J. Furphy & Sons of Shepparton, Victoria. The steel and cast iron tanks were first made in the 1880s and were used on farms and by stock agents.  Many Furphy water carts were used to take water to Australian Army personnel during World War I in Australia, Europe and the Middle East. The carts, with “J. Furphy & Sons” written on their tanks, became popular as gathering places where soldiers could exchange gossip, rumours and fanciful tales – much like today’s water cooler discussion. (Wikipedia)

I had, through my interest in classic and historic cars, come across the Furphy water cart in the past.  Having seen the heavy cast circular ends with the name clearly emblazoned at swap meets and clearing sales, I had not made the connection between obsolete colloquial language, engineering, farm machinery and books.

That was, until the name surfaced in a family line I was researching for a friend.  Was there a connection? Did the Furphy family I had stumbled across in Western Australia have anything to do with the Furphy water cart?

Reading up on the Furphy water cart and its origins in Victoria,  it still seemed strange that I had this Furphy connection in Western Australia.  It was one of those rabbit holes I just had to dive down and try and unpick…. especially as, in researching my family of interest, I came across the grave of the great great aunt Boleyn (nee Balcam) I was tracking and here she was, buried in Karrakatta Cemetery in a grave named FURPHY!

This Balcam family was a family that had started out in the Channel Islands, migrating to Victoria in the 1860’s and, in this case, finally fetching up on the other side of the continent in Western Australia. Mrs Boleyn didn’t have a big family – she had married in 1866 in Victoria and her husband died there in 1880.  Of her seven children, two died as infants and another predeceased her.  With the exception of her daughter Emily, the remaining children stayed in Victoria.

Emily married Felix Ernest Furphy in 1893 and by 1903, had 5 children all born in the Shepparton/Mooroopna area of Victoria.  For reasons that seemed inexplicable at this point, some time between 1903 and 1915,  Emily and Felix,  together with their four surviving children and Mrs Boleyn, made the trip to WA and settled there. Mrs Boleyn already had family in Western Australia as her sister, brother-in-law and their children had already relocated their family west some 10 years earlier.

Emily buried her mother and husband Felix three years apart in the same grave.

The Furphy family were just begging for a little scratching under the surface to see if there was any connection – nothing like a distraction from the task at hand! Some basic investigation in the Victorian Births Deaths and Marriages Indexes revealed Felix’s parentage: Joseph Furphy and Leonie Selina (or Celine) Germain.  Discovering this, I tried to find death registrations in Victoria for these two – no luck!  Imagine my surprise to discover that both parents could be found on the WA Death index – did Joseph and Leonie move interstate to join their son and his family or was it the other way round?

The next question was to find out whether Joseph was connected to the Furphy Water cart family or not…..

Trove to the rescue:

FURPHY.—On September 13, at Claremont, suddenly, Joseph Furphy, late of Shepparton, Victoria, beloved father of Felix, Sylvia, and Sam. Interment private.
And then there was more to the story that started to help put the pieces in place:
“Tom Collins,” whose franchise name was Joseph Furphy, was a “Bulletin” writer who died in 1913, and now a selection of his verses has been issued in book form, with an interesting preface, by Mr. Bernard O’Dowd. Furphy was an Irishman born of Methodist parents, but in Australia he took a
more cosmopolite view of human affairs and destiny, so that his writings assumed a wider outlook than his early
environment favored. Some years ago he published a book, “Such Is Life,” which Mr. O’Dowd describes as remarkable. Without going so far, we may say it was well reviewed, and is
worthy of survival. The present collection of verses is not poetry, however. It contains good facile rhyming and is easy reading: The best thing in it is undoubtedly ”Brahm,” as the author’s sponsor says, and is better than a lot of stuff that appears in
anthologies of alleged Australian verse.
Mr. Furphy came to W.A. in his later years and lived at Claremont, where he died. His mother, aged 98, is still
living with his widow, and his two sons, Felix and Sam, are proprietors of a foundry at Fremantle.
It was looking very much like I had a connection – the comment at the end of the piece was the clincher  as”…are proprietors of a foundry at Fremantle” sounded as if ironmongery and those water carts were, in fact, all in the family! And this was further confirmed by a comment in this article written in 1949:
Sons Come West.
Furphy’s daughter had been settled in W.A. with her husband
for a year or two before hard times in Shepparton decided her
brothers, Felix and Sam Furphy, to try their luck in the West, then booming. In 1903 they landed at Albany with some idea of staying there. Instead they came to Perth, immediately secured jobs at Hoskin’s Foundry, and sent back to Victoria for their wives to follow. The jobs did not last long. The young men saw an opening in Fremantle; and in less than no time had their own foundry established. Furphy Bros. soon built a reputation that it still enjoys.
Why write about this family now?  I was prompted to revisit this story by an article that had appeared in the paper over the weekend – and, like the niggle that insisted I trace the possibility of a connection, the article lit that little fire! There’s to be a national short story competition – and what better time to tell a little story of my own.
To honour the author of Such is Life, and “the furphy” that was born of the water cart, the family will launch a national short story prize, breathing fresh life into the tradition of yarn-spinning – either fact or fiction – that Joseph and his contemporaries Banjo Paterson and Henry Lawson made a part of Australian life.
5 Feb 2020 – Addendum: The Furphy Short Story Writing Competition has it’s own website: Check it out! ….. and get writing!