My grandfather’s World War II service

My mother had always said that her father didn’t serve in either of the world wars. The stories I remember were that he was too young in the First World War and too old in the Second World War, and that he was a farmer and needed at home to grow food. He was born in late December 1900, and was a farmer and grazier all his life, so I accepted these stories without question.

There was also a story about how he had to go to help search for the Japanese that broke out of the camp at Cowra during World War II. I don’t know if he ever found any; probably not or it would have been more of a story.

Yesterday I was searching the NameSearch at the National Archives of Australia website for others of the same surname and there he was:

NAA NameSearch

My grandfather is the last one. As you can see by the lack of an icon in the “Digitised item” column, it hasn’t been digitised yet. If it had been I would be able to see, and download, the images of each page in the file straight away. I can pay $16.50 to have it digitised early, before its ‘turn’, or $25 to have it digitised and colour photocopies sent to me.

I’ve paid the $16.50, and now I wait. It may take up to 90 days for a file which is “Not yet examined”, but I can’t imagine there will be anything in there that would cause it to be restricted once it has been examined.

If only I’d searched earlier! Why didn’t I? I think because I accepted what my mother told me. I don’t always believe what people tell me, but parents are different. Of course, my mother also told me that the Easons came from Wales and I have proven that they came from County Tyrone in what is now Northern Ireland. Talking about her own father is different, I guess.

So the lesson for today is – If there’s an index, search it! What have you got to lose?

This post was first published as If there’s an index, check it! on my blog NSW GenealogyI am trying to keep all my family posts in one place.

Australia Day Challenge – A Conditional Purchase Application

Shelley at Twigs of Yore has set herself a task for Australia Day, and a challenge for the rest of us:

Find the earliest piece of documentation you have about an ancestor in Australia. If you don’t have an Australian ancestor, then choose the earliest piece of documentation you have for a relative in Australia.

On Wednesday 26 January 2011 post your answers to these questions:

  1. What is the document?
  2. Do you remember the research process that lead you to it? How and where did you find it?
  3. Tell us the story(ies) of the document. You may like to consider the nature of the document, the people mentioned, the place and the time. Be as long or short, broad or narrow in your story telling as you like!

What document to choose? Which ancestor? The first one in Australia, or the first one born in Australia?

I’ve decided to go with one of my first arrivals into the colony of New South Wales but ignore the very first documents, which are the assisted immigrant passenger lists. These lists are easy to find – you search the online index at the State Records NSW website, and then you look up the microfilm. There are two lists, and if you are lucky your ancestor will appear in both. I posted a story a few years ago about how I found my Richard Eason’s mother’s mother from the ‘relative in the colony’ Richard gave when he immigrated, so I won’t repeat that here.

Instead I’d like to focus on what Richard did when he got here. He eventually became a farmer, and the first document I have for him that he actually signed is his application for a Conditional Purchase.

Conditional Purchases were introduced in 1862 as a way of getting small landholders on the land. They paid an initial deposit of %10 of the value of the land, and had to pay it off. The conditions were that they had to reside on the property, and they had to improve it – build a house, fences, etc. They could select land before it was surveyed, so by the time the surveyor came around there was often some improvements already built, which the surveyor often marked on the plan.

The land is 40 acres in the Parish of Graham, County of Bathurst, which is just north of the town of Blayney.

Conditional Purchase application form
State Records NSW: NSW Lands Department, Conditional Sales Branch, Correspondence files 1877-1951, NRS8103. Letter no. 71/5977.

I am inclined to think that Richard filled out this form himself, product of the Irish Education system as he was. He said he could read and write when he arrived in the colony in 1850, as did most of the people on the Oriental with him. The handwriting looks similar throughout, except for the signatures of others.

The form was also signed by Robert Ewin. Robert was Richard’s brother-in-law, Richard having married Esther Ewin in 1862. Robert also had land in this area, and Richard bought some of it from him later on.

When the survey was done the land was found to be slightly larger than the 40 acres, and Richard agreed to pay the extra.

Richard built a house on this land and raised his family in it, even though his wife died not long afterwards. His son John raised his own family there. John’s son Richard, my grandfather, sold the land and took the materials for his own building.

The process of finding this document was made easier by the fact that the Conditional Purchase number and Richard’s name was recorded on an old parish map:

Graham Parish map 1884 detail
NSW Lands Department, Historical Parish Maps. Bathurst County, Graham Parish, 1884. Detail showing Portion 199.

Once I had the Conditional Purchase number, CP71.252, I could go to State Records NSW at Kingswood and ask to see the Conditional Purchase Register for that year. From there I could trace the correspondence through the Correspondence Registers to find the documents. It sounds easy but it is quite time consuming, and easy to make mistakes.

On the map you can see many other names of the people that Richard must have known. Robert and William Ewin were his brothers-in-law. A sister-in-law married a Thornberry. All of them came from the same couple of parishes in County Tyrone in northern Ireland.

A couple of years ago I visited this land and saw the remains of the house. I have written about this previously. I met the current owner of the property, who gave me a photo of Richard’s son John Eason, my great-grandfather, that I had never seen before.

Fernside
Remains of the house at 'Fernside' near Blayney

I’ve traced many conditional purchases since then, but none have been as exciting as this first one!

Further information:
State Records NSW Archives in Brief No 93 – Background to conditional purchase of Crown land

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History Week 3 – Cars

Week 3: Cars. What was your first car? Describe the make, model and color, but also any memories you have of the vehicle. You can also expand on this topic and describe the car(s) your parents drove and any childhood memories attached to it.

I’m going to jump straight to family cars. Here is my Mum’s car. She learned to drive after her marriage to my Dad ended and we moved back to Dubbo where her parents were. She bought the car second hand from her father. It was a Valiant, a beige Valiant station wagon. It had a bench seat in the front so we could seat three in the front when necessary. As the eldest of four I sat in the front and the other kids in the back.

Our house
The house I grew up in, with the car next to it.

My first driving lessons were in this car. It was a terrible thing, big and heavy. It had a column shift, coming out of the steering column. I ran it into a tree ( I nearly missed it!) at a very low speed and not a scratch did the car suffer.

This is the only photo I can find that has the car in it that doesn’t show people that may not want to be displayed for all to see in my blog. Some of them are in this picture too, but I’m confident that they’re privacy is secure.

I will save the commentary on the house for a future post which I’m sure will be coming over the next few months.

My grandfather had a small farm in his semi-retirement. He used to take my sister and me out there on Sundays, and we used to ride in the back of the ute. We watched farming stuff going on – sheep being dipped and so on. We got our cat from a litter of kittens on the farm. Here we are disembarking after one of these trips:

Pop's ute
Pop's ute

I don’t know when riding in the back of a ute became illegal. Perhaps it was already illegal by then. We loved it!

Here is my grandfather and his young family in perhaps the mid-1930s. I like to think this was his first car, but I don’t really know.

Grandfather's car
Grandfather's car

Actually I’m only guessing that it’s his car. He’s in the middle and looking proprietorial so I think I’m safe. I can imagine the family piling into the car and chugging off home, with all these other people waving them off.

Any information about what sort of car this is would be very welcome!