52 Weeks to Better Genealogy – Week 22 – Find-a-Grave

I nearly dismissed this week’s challenge out of hand. I had heard of Find-a-Grave, and I thought it was an American site, with only American graves.

I was wrong.

I searched the FAQ for ‘international’ to see if it covered countries other than USA, as I couldn’t easily find this information on the homepage, and found that some fixes had been done to clean up the list of countries, including Australia. Woohoo!

So I did a search for my usual test surname – Eason – and restricted the country to Australia. Eason is uncommon enough that I don’t get thousands of results, and not so uncommon that I don’t get any at all.

Much to my surprise the list of results included John Eason, buried in an unmarked grave in Condobolin. I was a bit surprised, as I have a copy of his NSW death registration and a photo of his headstone in Blayney.

Entry for John Eason, buried in Condobolin in 1933, from Find a Grave

Entry for John Eason, buried in Condobolin in 1933, from Find a Grave

Clicking on the link to Condobolin Lawn Cemetery gives this information:

There are approximately 1000 unmarked graves in the general cemetery.

“I visited the undertaker, the council, the ladies club, the local Anglican and Catholic churches, the local court house and the local historical association, asking what records they had. I tried the local newspaper; they have their back issues to about 1906 on film but they weren’t big on obituaries. They don’t have a monumental mason in Condo.”

In compiling the list, reference was made to the NSW indexes of births, deaths and marriages and to military records for further information. The images may be viewed and downloaded from the list of all inscriptions for this cemetery.

I’m impressed that someone has gone to the trouble of deducing that the reported approximately 1000 unmarked burials in Condobolin Lawn Cemetery must include John Eason, whose death was registered in Condobolin. Unfortunately it is dangerous to make these sorts of assumptions. John was in Condobolin with his daughter when he died, and was apparently transferred to Blayney to be buried with his wife Lily, who predeceased him by three years.

Lily and John Eason Headstone

Headstone of Lily and John Eason, Blayney Presbyterian Cemetery. Photo taken by the author, Dec 2008.

The website allows corrections to be sent to the contributor, and I have now done so.

Lessons learned:

  1. Don’t dismiss a website just because you assume it is American. It may have gone international.
  2. Don’t assume that the contents of websites where information has been voluntarily entered is correct.

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy – Week 19 – military records

I don’t have any military ancestors, unless you include Fijians from the time before Christianity ended tribal warfare. So when the National Archives of Australia put digitised World War I Service records online a couple of years ago I went looking for the siblings of my direct ancestors who were born in the years that would have made them eligible for military service.

I found four, three of whom didn’t return from France.

Ernest Harold Goode (1885-1917), of Millthorpe, NSW, second son of William Goode and Elizabeth Grace Pascoe. Killed in action in France 25th February 1917.

George Harold Goode (1887-1918), of Millthorpe, NSW, third son third of William Goode and Elizabeth Grace Pascoe. Killed in action in France 2nd June 1918.

Douglas James Stewart (1899-1918), of Holbrook, NSW, eldest son of James Simpson Stewart and Annie Lawson. Killed in action in France, 10th August, 1918.

Eric Eason (1894-1976), of Blayney, NSW, eldest son of John Eason and Lily Adelaide Grace Goode. Discharged 4th September 1919 on disembarkation in Sydney. Hid mother Lily Eason, nee Goode, was the eldest sister of Ernest and George Goode.

I have started to examine one of these files in more detail. Douglas James Stewart was my grandmother’s first cousin. He was born and raised in Holbrook, which is near Albury in southern New South Wales. He was just barely 18 when he joined the Australian Expeditionary Force in Sydney on Sunday, 18th February, 1918. My mother says she was told that he looked older than he was, and the women of the town used to give him white feathers, calling him a coward. He joined up as soon as he could:

NAA: Base Records Office Australian Imperial Force; B2455, First Australian Imperial Force Personnel Dossiers. 1914-1920; 3013311, Stewart Douglas James : SERN 3718

Both parents had to sign the form as he was under 21 years.

The whole file is 61 pages, and although some pages are certified copies of other pages, most are original records. There is the correspondence the AIF Office received from his father James Simpson Stewart requesting further details about his son’s death, requesting a photograph of the grave, and enquiring about medals. Copies of replies from the Office are there, as is an inventory of the personal effects sent to the next of kin.

It’s very sad. I never knew Douglas James Stewart, nor did my mother, and I’ve never even seen a photograph of him. It’s sad that he has been reduced to pieces of paper in an old file, but it’s brilliant that he can be remembered now that the pieces of paper are available for me to view at home on my computer.

Lest we forget.

French Genealogy anyone?

For those of us with French ancestors here is a blog that focuses on research in France. It has articles, links to websites, book recommendations, and everything you need to get over your first dismay when you discover that your ancestor came from France.

Anne Morddel has been writing this blog for a year now, and to celebrate her first anniversary she is giving away a copy of her five-page checklist of research you can do on your own before you need to contact a professional in France, called Preparing to Research an Ancestor in France.

To obtain a copy you need to send her an email. You can find her email address here.