Monday, October 29, 2012

X is for XMAS Greetings from the past

This unusual Christmas Greeting from 1916 emphasises that you should do your own research and not believe all family stories.

"A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from across the Sea      1916"

"Silver Leaves"

My Grand Aunty has this leaf in her collection and believed that it was sent to her grandfather, James Pilgrim, (my Great Great Grandfather) from family in England.

However, I am very confident that the leaf was from my Great Grand Uncle, Lloyd Geyer, to his sister Mabel Pilgrim (nee Geyer), who is my Great Grandmother and the mother of my Grand Aunty who now has the leaf.

How did I come to that conclusion?

  • James Pilgrim's parents and siblings were all deceased by 1916 so I don't believe that it would come from them.
  • The leaf appear to be from the Silver Leaf Protea of Africa. The Australian Infantry Forces were in Egypt and Africa during the war. 
  • Lloyd Geyer was away at War (the 57th Battalion were in Egypt until late December 1916) and therefore Christmas Cards would not be easily available and a leaf makes a good alternative
  • And finally, the writing on the leaves appears to be the same a Lloyd Geyer's writing on other correspondence and the Defence Force enlistment application.
The 1918 card below was definitely from Lloyd Geyer to his sister Mabel.

Dear Mabel, 
     Just a few lines to let you know that I am quite well 
hoping these few lines find you all the same.
This is one of our Bat'n cards and the names on the inside is where we have been boxing on their is more to add to it yet.  I am miles away from no where at present.
Well I must close now with the best Love from your loving brother
Lloyd xxxx

Great Grand Uncle Lloyd Geyer who wrote the above Xmas Greetings
click to enlarge

1914 - 1918
click to enlarge

Emily Pilgrim was born 1914 and Lloyd and Eva Pilgrim's sister was born in 1919 and she isn't included.  Therefore I estimate that this card is from between 1914 - 1918.

click to enlarge
Friends & Cousins
Eva and Emily Pilgrim

Another card from Emily Pilgrim to her cousin (and my grandmother) Eva Pilgrim in 1922

Cousins Margaret Maybery and Lorna Pilgrim
25th December 1928

You may have seen the photo on the right in one of my prior posts, but I just love this picture of Christmas morning 1928.

On Christmas Day 1942, during World War II, my grandfather wrote a letter from "Abroad".  My grandmother would not have known where he was at the time but we know now that he was in the Middle East.

"Well Christmas is about over now for this year & I hope you had a good time tho I know how you would miss me very much but better luck next time.  We had an extra good dinner of turkey & pork & plenty of roast vegetables, plum pudding, fruit salad and sauce.  The tea was very good too but I missed the good old Xmas cake".  
The letter was closed with "All my love & kisses to you all now & forever from your own lonely husband who is longing to see you all again & very soon. Cheerio now with all my love darling & just keep on smiling for my sake.  Yours always and forever, Allan"

To my Mother in 1950

My first Christmas card?
1967 or 1968
Click picture to see more "X" posts

Saturday, October 27, 2012

W is for WEDDING presents

After my granddad died, the lamp appeared on top of the fridge.  I didn't know where it came from (and as a typical child, I didn't care).  I just liked it.  Was my preoccupation because the lamp was up high up out of reach?  Or was it more?

As I became older, I still admired the lamp and dad told me that it had been in my grandfather's shed for years and after granddad died, he rescued it and cleaned it up and obtained new glass for the top of it.

The Christmas before last, Dad gave the lamp to me.  I was overwhelmed.  It was the best Christmas present ever.

Earlier this year I came across a newspaper article about the wedding of my Great Grandparents on Wednesday 21st May 1902.

Transcribed article
Click to enlarge

Great Grandparents
Ambrose and Mary Walker
circa 1902
You can imagine how I felt when I came across this list of the wedding presents received by my Great Grandparents. You will see that the first gift listed is a lamp, given to the newly wed couple by the bride's father, Mr S Mottram snr. (being my Great Great Grandfather).

I rang my father immediately and asked if he could tell me anything more about the lamp.  He seemed to think that it had belonged to his grandmother and his father obtained it when she died, but he wasn't certain.

No one can tell me for sure that the lamp that sat on top of the fridge for years is the wedding present to my Great Grandparents but I "know" that it is.  Gut Feeling? Intuition?  I cannot explain it.

You will remember that I received the lamp as a gift from my father. I also received the crystal jug below about the same time, as a gift from my cousin, who I hardly knew. I will be forever grateful and appreciative of her generosity.

Rita & Gordon Walker
This crystal jug was a wedding present to my grandparents on Wednesday 23rd September 1925.

Before writing this blog, I was unaware of the wedding gifts my parents received on Thursday 26th January 1967.  This prompted a call to mum and she sent through some photos.  I was very surprised to learn that the dinner plates, we ate from every night when I lived at home, were wedding presents.  Mum still uses all of the pictured wedding gifts.

Left:  Mix Master and Saucepans from Mum's mother
Middle: Dinner set from Mum's sister
Right: Dinner set from Dad's sister
Mum and Dad
Now we arrive at Alex & I.  We married Saturday 15th June 1991.  My sister and her boyfriend gave us an urn, which was more of a joke about how much coffee Alex drinks.  It still sits on the top shelf of the pantry.  We primarily received money instead of gifts so we could buy home appliances.  The only one remaining today is the box freezer.

On our wedding day, I wore my grandmother's hand carved cameo as "something old".  Gran told me that she had received it from her grandmother as she was the eldest granddaughter.  I am her eldest granddaughter and I was very surprised and emotional when she gave the cameo to me on my wedding day.  I hope that I have a granddaughter so I may follow tradition. Hopefully she will also want to wear it on her wedding day.

"Something Old"

Alex & I
Painted on our honeymoon
My first overseas trip was our honeymoon to Thailand.  The above oil painting was our wedding gift to ourselves.  It was painted from three photos (a group photo and two individual photos) by a painter in the hotel lobby.

All this talk about weddings and wedding gifts has made me think about what I will give to my children when they marry.

Perhaps I will give my daughter this bangle?  We purchased the stone on our honeymoon in Thailand (as young unsuspecting tourists, we paid double what the stone was worth).  In 2011, our 20th wedding anniversary, I had the stone made into a bangle.  I wanted it to be something I would wear but something that would last several generations and become a family heirloom.

I have no idea what I will give my son but believe I will have many years to think about it!

Click on the picture for more "W" posts

Sunday, October 21, 2012

V is for Valiant Victims

" My word our boys are brave lads, frightened of nothing.  I have seen nearly every different type of soldier in the world but give me the old Australians and I am satisfied"  Robert Jones 1916
They were probably full of nervous excitement as they left Australia.   Little did they realise that over 30% of them would never come home and a further 35% would return home early with severe injuries.  This was a journey that would change all their lives and that of their families forever.

RMS Osterley

My Grand Uncle, Robert John Jones, was one of 153 young men of the 24th Battalion, 5th Reinforcement to leave Australia aboard the RMS Osterley, on 29th September 1915, on their way to Egypt.  Bob, as he preferred to be called, had just turned eighteen earlier in the month.   Additionally, he was likely still grieving for his mother, who had died five months earlier.

Click to enlarge
Bob was born on the 2nd September 1897 in the small mining community of Creswick, Victoria. He was the eldest of the three children of Robert and Roseana Jones.   Life was tough for most mining families but it seems this family had another obstacle to contend with - Racism.  Roseana was an illegitimate child and it is believed that her "Unknown" father was an aboriginal man.  In those days this was something that was not discussed and led to much discrimination and taunting.

Bob, a miner like his father, lied about his age on his enlistment application.  However, he was 18 by the time he embarked.

Minya, Egypt 2008

Bob was stationed at various parts of Egypt for his first six months.  He had his first stint in hospital with "minor nose trouble" at Minya in March 1916.  I didn't realise this when I visited Minya, 92 years later, in March 2008.


It seems that Bob was a rebel.  In 1914, when a cadet, he was charged at Daylesford Police court with failing to attend a compulsory drill and breach of discipline, specifically talking on parade (several times). He was fined 10s and confined in Queenscliff fortress for 7 days. You can read more here.

"You, Jones are just starting into life, and later whether you will like it or not you will become a member of the citizen forces. Your obedience of the militia laws must be willing and hearty. In the old country they have a very ready method of dealing with those who do not comply in this particular and you would find yourself clapped into the guard house. You look like a boy who will make a good man, and you should esteem it a privilege to belong to the first units of the Commonwealth forces".

His war records showing that he was often "A.W.L." (Absent without Leave), he missed many parades and was absent from several Roll Calls.  In total he was fined 52 days pay or £13 over a three year period for his indiscretions.  However, he remained steadfast and loyal when it really mattered.

After two weeks of extreme battle at Pozieres France, Bob received a "Gun Shot Wound Severe" to his left arm on the 5th August 1916.  This day was described by Major McSharry as "the heaviest barrage the battalion ever saw".  Bob was lucky to survive as "Dead and wounded lay everywhere, some killed on their stretchers, with the stretcher-bearers lying dead beside them"1.   

"Anyone who had come out of the previous months heavy fighting could shake hands with himself" Bob Jones wrote home to his father

 Mr R Jones, of Vincent Street, Daylesford has received a letter from his son, Pte R. Jones, from the 11th General Hospital, stating that he had been wounded in the arm, and that he is improving. He added that he went through a very heavy engagement on the 4th? August. He and six of his mate were buried, and when they were got out, three were wounded and the rest dead. "We were very lucky to escape with wounds, and under the heavy artillery fire were again   very lucky to get to dressing station." he concluded

"I always go in with the intention of coming out again........something tells me that I am going to come right through"  Bob Jones in a letter to his father in 1916


Within 20 days of receiving the Gun Shot wound, Bob was back in action.  He was one of the lucky ones as by the end of 1916, twenty of the men in the 24th Battalion, who had arrived on the same boat as Bob, were dead and a further 13 had been sent home injured.

Bob was now in the 2nd Machine Gun company.

On the 30th October 1917 in France, Bob was "Blown Up" and received "Shell Wounds to Head and Right Ankle".  The war record states;
"Oct. 1917, while working M. Gun, was blown up. Carried on for 5 hours till relieved.  Became unconscious and remembered nothing for 6 days.  Gradually lost power in L. arm.
17-12-17.  Can make no movement of arm or hand except slight flexion of fingers.  All muscles of arm and forearm except flexors, do not respond to faradism or galvanism, and A.C.C. greater than K.C.C. Gradually improving". 

Click to enlarge


The Ballarat Courier (Vic. : 1914 - 1918)
Friday 21 December 1917, page 7
Mr R. Jones, of Vincent street, Daylesford, has been advised by the Base Records Office that his son, Pte R. Jones, of the 2nd Machine Gun Company (late 24th Battalion), is in the Richmond (UK) Military Hospital suffering from gunshot wound in head and right ankle.

Bob was sent to a hospital in Boulogne, France and then England.  Nearly 6 months later on the 10th April 1918, he was transferred back to Australia by the hospital ship Borda to Caulfield hospital, Victoria.

Hospital Ship - Borda

Bob wrote a letter to obtain a copy of his medical records (to apply for TPI pension)

He was discharged as medically unfit (TPI) on the 21st November 1918.  Bob may have survived the war, receiving the 1914/1915 Star, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, but I believe another battle was about to begin.

After my research, I can totally understand why, and I cannot begin to imagine the horrors that he saw on a daily basis.  One of the men in Bob's regiment reported a mates death "I was about 30 yards from him and saw him killed by a shell.  There was nothing left to bury"

Our family know very little about Bob, besides what the records tell us.  My grandmother, his sister, did not talk about him, except to say that he had been burnt with gas, had a metal plate in his head and the war had changed him.  Family stories indicate that Bob was a bit of a nomad, who frequented the hotels.  My Uncle would often drink with him and describe him as a "great old fellow" who would take him fishing and ferreting.

Bob was living at his daughters home in Newborough, Victoria, prior to dying of Lung Cancer and Bronchopneumonia on the 11th September 1967, age 70.

Robert John "Bob" Jones
1  According to the "Official History of Australia in the War of 1914-1918 - Volume 3" - Page 705, Chapter XX at

Click on the picture
 to see more "V" posts
Originally posted 21st October 2012 and updated with additional information 4th October 2013

Sunday, October 7, 2012

U is for UNIQUE Treasures

Do you have family memorabilia, which is extremely valuable to you but not to anyone else?

Does your family know the stories behind your unique treasures?  

To ensure that your unique treasures do not end up in a garage sale if something happens to you, I suggest that you catalogue them now.

Here is an example of my cataloging.  I have taken photos of items and made a notation beside them.  The booklet is kept with my Will, which states that family memorabilia must be maintained within the family and not sold.

Click to enlarge

Click on the picture for further posts

T is for THANK YOU

THANK YOU to everyone who has helped me with my research.

When I started genealogy many years ago, I was initially astounded at the friendliness and helpfulness of other researchers.   Many years later, I still find the Genealogy Community to be an extremely friendly and helpful group of people. I believe we unofficially live by the proverb "What goes around, comes around".  I know that I am always willing to help others where I can but also really appreciate help from others when needed.

THANK YOU to all the relatives and family members who have openly welcomed me (quite often as a complete stranger) into their homes and who have eagerly shared their stories and photos.  The generous nature of many family members has amazed me.

THANK YOU to all those people who have transcribed so many records so that they are easily available to us. There are alot of records held by small historical societies all over Australia.  These historical societies rely on volunteers and donations to maintain their records.  One day I intend on becoming one of these volunteers and helping to transcribe these records for the benefit of others.

THANK YOU Gran for being an avid photographer, answering my questions and writing down your memories in a journal, which have provided such valuable insights and information for the entire family.

I can't finish this blog without sharing one of my grandmothers photos.  The photo below is one of my favourites.  It is a very simple lifestyle photo, which to me represents that although things change in time,  many things stay the same.  Thank you Gran.

August 1932
Joker takes a Bath

Click picture for more posts

S is for SEARCHING for Samuel

In 1859 family members were searching for "Samuel Drayton, from Philadelphia".  Over 150 years later, I am now searching for more information about Samuel Drayton from Philadelphia.

Samuel Francis Drayton is my Great Great Great Grandfather. He is one of my "Brick Walls" and the shortest branch on my tree.

According to hospital admission records, Samuel arrived in Australia in 1851 aboard the whaling boat, Sophia, which sailed from Nantucket USA in 1848.  As the crew were not listed there is no information to confirm this.

 There are many records available about Samuel since he arrived in Australia but nothing before.  
When I first started researching, I only used free sources and did not pay for certificates.  However now I budget to purchase certificates each month, which has really increased my information and provided further leads about family members.  Trove is one of my best research friends and it amazes me the information that newspapers can provide, which is not available elsewhere.  I can get lost for hours reading various stories and advertisements totally unrelated to my family.  Will and Probate records and Government Gazettes have also provided useful information.   

I use Family Tree Maker to sort and record information and photos but I also like to summarise my findings and sources in table format.   I find it is easier for me to follow and piece together the timeline and story.

The first page of Samuel's summary information
Click to enlarge
Samuel and his children seem to be the only family members of mine who have owned shares. In the early 1860s, Samuel purchased one share in the Star of Erin Gold mining company for £50.  In the late 1800s there were 20 shares held in the Ballarat Banking Corporation valued at £80.

This lead me to find information written about a high profile Drayton Family of Philadelphia (which includes a prominent banker).  Many of the names mentioned are the same as in our Drayton family.  However, I can't find a link to Samuel and it seems unlikely that Samuel was part of this family as he was illiterate, which doesn't seem to fit with such a well known and influential family.

Births in Philadelphia prior to 1860 were recorded spasmodically by the counties and have not been indexed.  So unfortunately it seems that Samuel Drayton will remain a "Brick Wall" for me.  However, I have put Philadelphia on my list of places to visit in the future!

Click on the picture for more posts