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.

52 Weeks to Better Genealogy: Week 5 – WorldCat

Week 5

Play with WorldCat.org. WorldCat is a massive network of library content that the public can search for free (user name and password not required). Not every library is a part of WorldCat, but the vast size of the network makes it an important genealogy tool. If you are looking for a specific book or publication, enter the identifying information into the WorldCat search box and see which libraries hold the item. You may even find that you can get the item through your library’s inter-library loan program. Don’t forget to search for some of your more unusual surnames and see what comes up. The goal is to play with WorldCat and examine its possibilities for your own research. If you’re already familiar with WorldCat, play with it again. The network and collection grow and change constantly. If you have a genealogy blog, write about your experiences with searching WorldCat for this exercise.

WorldCat is a catalogue of many, many libraries in the world. I’ve used it before and usually it has told me that the book I am looking for is in the State Library of NSW or the National Library of Australia. Unfortunately my genealogy society isn’t part of WorldCat, but one day that will change.

For the sake of this exercise I decided not to look for a book that I know of, but to find books that I didn’t know about. As Amy suggested, I’ve put in one of my unusual surnames – Whippy. David Whippy, born in Nantucket, Massachusetts, arrived in Fiji in about 1822 and stayed there.

So I put “Whippy” in the WorldCat search, and waited. 70 results, including a dissertation about job satisfaction in Guam University. I narrowed it down by adding ‘Fiji’, and came up with 5 results, 2 of which were the same.

The most relevant item I found was a microfilm of a play written by Isobel Whippy:

The play concerns the first British Consul in Fiji, William Thomas Pritchard, who arrived in Levuka in September 1858 and was dismissed from his post in January 1863. It is based on a theory that the Consul lost his job because of a love affair with a young woman – possibly a part-European – who gave birth to two children by Pritchard, before he married her in the British Consulate in Levuka a few days afte his dismissal. The play is in two acts – the first covering the period from September 1858 to June 1859; the second from November 1859 to July 1862. There is an epilogue concerning the year 1864.

The microfilm was published by the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau in Canberra, which I happen to know is part of the Australian National University and who microfilm manuscripts related to Pacific history. The films are available in the State Library NSW, and I have accessed them there in the past.

WorldCat, however, told me that my nearest copy was at Yale University Library, New Haven, CT 06520 United States, at a distance of 10000 miles. If I selected the other, identical title, I could find it at the State Library of NSW, the National Library of Australia, and the State Library of Victoria.

There is however, a link to Related Identities, one of which was the Australian National University Pacific Manuscripts Bureau. There’s a timeline for the Bureau that goes back to 1830, which was rather startling until I realised that most of the works listed are about American whalers in the Pacific and such, and filmed by the PMB.

So the end result of my investigation is that I can almost always find what I need in the State Library of NSW, in Sydney where I live. Anything that this library doesn’t have will probably be in Canberra and probably available on inter-library loan, although I haven’t hit this situation yet.

David Whippy didn’t arrive on a whaler but the principle is the same, so I now have a list of resources I can check to find out more about the way of life and the history of Americans in the Pacific, if not about David Whippy directly. Most, if not all, available at the State Library of NSW.

Libraries Australia has  a combined catalogue of many libraries in Australia. I don’t know if all the same libraries are in both catalogues. The free version of this catalogue is within Trove.

Trove

I put Whippy in the Search field and got a whole heap of results:

Trove - Whippy search

As you can see, there’s a vast array of stuff which will take me some time to work through. Not all of it is relevant, but some of it is. For example, the third entry under Australian newspapers (1803-1954) is a page from the Sydney Morning Herald in January 1856 containing transcripts of correspondence about American activities in Fiji. In one of the letters, written by James Calvert, the Wesleyan missionary, Mr Whippy, my David Whippy, is mentioned a number of times as arbitrating with Mr. Calvert in a dispute between the natives and an American ship’s captain. I was then able to correct the transcription of the notoriously difficult newspaper print, and download a PDF of the page or the whole newspaper.

Further down the screen there are sections for Maps, Diaries and Letters, and Archived Websites. All sections can be opened and closed on this summary screen, or clicked on to give the full list of results.

Trove is relatively new, and having now played with it I can see it is vastly superior to WorldCat for my purposes. Australian catalogues are more likely to be useful to me in general to find a book I can borrow in an Australian library. Trove gives so much more than any library catalog that I would be unlikely to go anywhere else.

It also gave me more books than WorldCat did. On its list of 96 books, journals and magazines, etc, it gives the title Gone Native in Polynesia by Ian Christopher Campbell, a book I’ve been trying to get hold of for some time. This book has a whole chapter on David Whippy in Fiji. There are tabs for each State, and under NSW I can see that it’s available at the State Library of NSW and the University of Wollongong Library. There is also a link to show where I can buy a copy – in this case from Blackwell Online for 70 pounds or Amazon from US$79.00 to US$235.00. I won’t be buying a copy for my library, but I have a search in eBay just in case.

Isobel’s play is there, with the same results – State Library of NSW, and the reference number is given.

Really, I can’t see why I would use WorldCat on a day-to-day basis. Contributers to Trove include Project Gutenberg, so I might be able to download the book I want then and there.