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Saturday, April 28, 2012

How to conduct a good family history interview

This weekend, I'm going to have an opportunity to interview a few family members about days gone by. Since these family members are my elders, I'm hoping to ask them what life was like in their neck of the woods around the 1940s and 1950s.



Here are a few of the questions, I plan to use.

  • What are your memories of this holiday (see photo above)?
  • Were there any stories that were passed down through the generations?
  • What was your family's favourite food?
  • What did you all do on the weekend?
  • What did you learn from your grandparents? your parents?
  • What did your family do on Christmas Day?
  • What is your saddest/ funniest/ earliest/ most exciting memory?
  • What was your mother/ father/ grandmother/ grandfather like as a person? How do you think they would like to be remembered? What is it you miss about them the most?
  • Are there any treasured family photos that you can tell me about or share with me?
  • Did you have any pets? If so, what can you remember about them?
  • What made your family laugh?

Does anyone else have any other suggestions for good questions or conversation starters?


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Which uniform is that?

This blog is still on a military theme ...

One of my great-grandfather's sisters was Sarah (aka Sally) KINGSBURY. She was born in 1881 in Flintshire, Wales and died in 1967 in Blackpool England.

Her first husband was Samuel BUXTON. They married in Fylde, Lancashire in 1902. At the time of her marriage, Sarah was about 20. I think this photo may have been on her wedding day or soon after. I guess that the man in the chair is Samuel BUXTON. If I knew what uniform he was wearing, I thought that I may be able to work out what war he was in.

At the bottom right corner of the photograph, the photographer's name or the photographic studio is named as Ellis Wolstenholme, Wellington Studio, Blackpool.  On other sites on the internet, the address of this photographic studios is described as “Wellington Studio, Opp Central Pier, Blackpool”. This photographic studio seems to have been in business from 1881 to at least 1939.


I believe that by 1923, Sarah had had at least four children, possibly five, with Samuel BUXTON but they had parted company. By this time she had met William ABBISS with whom she spent the rest of his life, until he died in 1956, one year after they were married. Sarah finally married William the year that her former husband, Samuel BUXTON, died in 1955.

The photo below of Sarah (Sally) in later years, probably with William ABBISS, seems to have been taken when she was about 50 years of age in about 1931.


Does anyone recognise the type of uniform the soldier is wearing in the first photo in this blog? I would be grateful for any ideas.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Thanks to you ... Thomas Patrick Butler (1894-1917)

With Anzac Day just around the corner, I thought it was a good time to honour one of my ancestors who lost his life in the first world war.

Thomas Patrick Butler was born in Sydney in 1894. He was the second son of Thomas Butler (from County Clare, Ireland) and Catherine Heraty (from County Mayo, Ireland) who married in Balmain in Sydney in 1892.

Thomas signed up on 23 December 1915, just before Christmas. He listed his next of kin as his mother, Catherine Butler (nee Heraty). Details from his service record include:


  • Service number: 5334
  • Rank: Corporal
  • Unit: 55th Battalion (Infantry)
  • Service: Australian Army
  • Conflict: 1914-1918
  • Date of death: 10 March 1917
  • Cause of death: Died of wounds
  • Cemetery or memorial details: Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension, France
  • War Grave Register notes: BUTLER, Cpl. Thomas Patrick, 5334. 55th Bn. Australian Inf. Died of wounds 10th March, 1917. Age 23. Son of Thomas and Catherine Butler, of Barnsbury Grove, Dulwich Hill, New South Wales. Native of Marrickville, Sydney, New South Wales. VI. C. 37.
  • Source: AWM145 Roll of Honour cards, 1914-1918 War, Army
Thomas' signature on his signing up papers:




On 4 March 1917 he was admitted to hospital with wounds to his left side (breast, leg and arm) that he had suffered on 28 February 1917.


He died in France on 10 March 1917 when he was only 23 years of age.

His death is recorded on page 14 of the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday 14 April 1917. Hi sname is listed under the Roll of Honour.

His death was also recorded in the  Sydney Morning Herald on page 12 on Saturday 9 March 1918, under the Active Service section. There were two notices, one by his mother and father, and one by his brothers and sisters. Note that this notice includes reference to two of his other brothers, John and Jack, who were also on active service.




Although Thomas was buried overseas in the Dernancourt Communal Cemetery Extension, France, there is a memorial plaque to Thomas on the grave of his parents at Rookwood Cemetery in Sydney.



He is honoured on the Roll of Honour on the Australian War Memorial site, under the entry Thomas Patrick Butler.

Thomas was the son of my great-grandmother's brother. I can only imagine what hell he went through for us future descendants.

Walking in their footsteps Part 8: Bourke Cemetery




Bourke cemetery was so much bigger than I expected. All types of graves, all types of people, all types of religions. Here are a few that caught my eye ...

Fred Hollows (192901993) was a well-known ophthalmologist who helped restore the sight of many people in Australia and overseas. His grave is very moving to see, along with the tributes that are found at the cemetery to his great work.




Graves of the early Afghan camel drivers ...



These are the ones I find particularly sad - the ones without names, graves broken by time, the graves with a simple iron cross, graves with a simple wooden fence, graves just labelled with "Mum" and "Dad", side-by-side.. 







Walking in their footsteps Part 7: Bourke Churches

I have been very slack about finishing this series of blogposts, so here goes ...

This post shows the few churches that I could find in my recent trip to Bourke in January.

Catholic Church, Bourke (now)

 Catholic Church, Bourke (then, earlier in the 1900s)

 Seventh Day Adventist Church, Bourke


Anglican Church, Bourke

Walking in their footsteps Part 8: Bourke Cemetery