Where did that ditch come from?

On Sunday afternoon I took my two young children, 6 and 4, with me to the Bangalow Cemetery to take a photo of a headstone to use in a uni assignment. (That I am trying very hard to complete but seem to be making little progress on at the moment. *sigh*)

My small friends were very interested in where we were going and I had told them that we would also visit the graves of their great-grandmother’s (who is still alive and who they visit regularly) grandparents, James and Eliza Simmons, and place some flowers from our garden on their graves.

Unfortunately this did not eventuate because I managed to back my car into a ditch. How did I do that? I don’t actually know, other than I was backing down a hill and there was no post on the edge of the little road to show that there was a big ditch and rocks there. (I need to email the council about that). Anyway, you can see the result in the photo below.

Once I worked out the extent of the situation, and didn’t swear, I rang my husband, hoping the two of us would be able to get the car out. The look on his face when he saw the car cured me of that thought immediately. He definately thought we had no hope. Meanwhile the 4 year old was crying. I think he thought we were all going to be stuck in the cemetery forever, and it took quite a bit of coaxing to calm him down. So while the kids sat on a picnic rug in the sun in a cemetery, we tried to figure out how to move the car off the embankment without ripping the front of the car off! In the end we decided to call the NRMA, we really didn’t know what we were doing.

So hubby went home with the kids and I went to photograph the headstone that I had come looking for. (I also put the flowers on my great great grandparents’ graves. And after seeing them again on Sunday I have decided I need to go and do some cleaning up around them).

The headstone I photographed is of reputedly the first person buried in Bangalow, although not originally in the current cemetery, Marian Campbell. Her and her husband Robert were pioneer settlers in Bangalow in 1881, and after contributing a great deal to the community, Marian passed away at the age of 42. Her headstone is virtually impossible to read, but  her ancestors organised a plaque that explains her contribution to the establishment of Bangalow. I can only imagine what kinds of hardships and challenges she and other wives of settlers experienced as they forged new lives in remote places.

I also wondered if she was laughing just a little bit at me and my car….

I was very lucky. The NRMA lady arrived and within 10 minutes had me out and on my way home. She was very impressive, lugging big rocks around to place under the front of my car. I think I was extremely lucky that there was virtually no damage done to the car and that it didn’t have to be towed away.

Needless to say, I won’t be driving up that little road again.


ANZAC Day Blog – James (Milton) SIMMONS

I have a number of ancestors who have fought in various wars. My father was conscripted into the army to go to Vietnam in 1965, both of my grandfathers and their brothers enlisted in World War II, and my great grandfather Victor Rex SIMMONS enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in WWI. It is his brother James SIMMONS though, more commonly known as Milton, who my post is about.

Milton SIMMONS was born 17 Oct 1889 in Washburton, Milton/Ulladulla, NSW to James SIMMONS and Eliza (nee WENTWORTH). Milton was the third of James and Eliza’s 7 children, and my great grandfather Victor was the youngest.

When Milton enlisted, (the first of 3 brothers), he was 25 and a farmer from Brooklet in Northern NSW. The Simmons family had moved to the area sometime at the turn of the century from the South Coast, and ran a dairy farm.

Private Milton, service no. 1952, joined the 3rd Reinforcements of the 26th Battalion in June 1915. He arrived in Egypt in January 1916, and after training was shipped to France in March 1916. On 29 July 1916, Milton was one of many young Australian men involved in an attack on  German lines at Pozières, a village in the Somme. He was never seen alive again. A brief statement from a fellow soldier, D. D. Goodyear, said: “We went over side by side, both carrying bombs. We captured the first German trench where I was detained. He went on to capture the second and I never saw him again. I am afraid he was killed”.

It was exactly a year before Milton’s body was recovered, identified and he was officially recorded as “Killed in action”. During that time must have been agony for his family. Milton’s father James had passed away in 1912, so it fell to his mother Eliza and older brother Frank to try to discover his fate. Heartbreakingly, Eliza passed away only 2 months after Milton went missing, and therefore never discovered what happened to him.

Milton’s remains were interred in Serre Road Cemetery No. 2 near Beaumont-Hamel, France. An image of his grave and details of the inscription can be seen on The War Graves Photography Project.

Until recently I had no knowledge of Milton Simmon’s sacrifice. I have always felt incredibly proud of my father and grandfathers for all they fought for and went through, but feel particularly moved by Milton’s story as he did not come home.

As we watch the ANZAC march tomorrow, he is one of many I will be silently thanking.



Red Cross Wounded and Missing – Milton Simmons

National Archives of Australia, B2455. SIMMONS Milton : Service Number – 1952

Simmons, Milton. The War Graves Photography Project

My Hetherington ancestors from Fermanagh, Northern Ireland

I’ve decided I would like to blog more often, rather than wondering about whether it is of interest to anyone else. So, if it is interesting to me, I’m going to yack about it. Hopefully it will be of interest to someone else too!

My Mum’s maiden name is HETHERINGTON, and until recently we all assumed that the Hetherington’s were from England. Not quite, it would seem, they were from County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. I was excited when I discovered this because they were the first, and even now the only, ancestors I have from Northern Ireland.

Through shipping records I could see that my 3xgreat grandfather Noble HETHERINGTON came to Australia in 1863 when he was 57. He is listed in the records as a Widower, and as travelling with his daughter Ann (27), son George (my 2xgreat grandfather, aged 24), his wife Jane and their first child John (aged less than 1).

I have spent most of time researching my direct ancestors, but there is only so far you can go via the web, and without visiting local repositories of historical information. I would love to be able to discover all the details myself, (must be the reference librarian gene in me!), but I finally decided I should give in and ask for some help from the professional service provided by the Family History Centre at the Kiama Local Library. They provided me with a huge packet of information that included many pieces of information I am still digesting, 4 months later! One thing that did stand out was that Noble, Ann and George were assisted in their move to Australia by another daughter of Noble’s,  Mary who emigrated 7 years earlier.

My discovery earlier this week however, completely surprised me, although I think I probably should have expected it considering where and when these ancestors of mine headed to Oz. Looking at the fantastic Fermanagh GOLD Members Genealogy Pages which I found trawling through RootsWeb.com mailing lists, I found a transcription of a Lowtherstown Workhouse record from 1847 which suggest that Noble’s eldest children, Mary, Thomas and Ann were “placed” in the workhouse, without their parents. There is no “release” date, and I have done no further research to try to find out when they left the workhouse, but can only imagine the horror that was their life inside – hopefully it wasn’t any worse outside…

Mary, as I already knew, had come to Australia and sponsored her father and siblings to emigrate too. With Mary on that trip came Thomas, who until now I hadn’t paid much attention to until I realised he had been in Lowtherstown Workhouse too – I don’t know why, but somehow this made him more real to me. I know what became of Noble, he passed away in Gerringong 10 years later, and presumably was a little more comfortable than he had been previously.

Noble’s daughter Ann who accompanied him from Nth Ireland I was very curious about now, and decided to see if she had married. By the time she reached Australia she was nearly 28, so I wondered if she had married at all, but quickly found that she had married Charles WILEY in Kiama in 1868. They had 2 sons, Joseph and Samuel, and when I found that, I felt a little more hopeful that she had had a happier life for coming to Australia. I was extremely surprised to make my next discovery, that Ann is buried in the cemetery of the town I live in. I checked this a few times, but here she was! I haven’t been there yet to take my own photo, as I only discovered this in earlier this week in the dead of night, (and I think I will try to go without my small children who could fall down the numerous bunny holes that also litter this cemetery), but think it would be very funny if she is lying close to where my father’s great grandparents are buried – the ones who indirectly started me in earnest on this adventure.

Goal no.2 for 2011 – start a genealogy blog

Instead of simply thinking about, it I have decided to jump in with both feet and start a blog about my genealogy adventure.

I began this adventure many years ago when quizzing older relatives about where and how they used to live but never became serious about it until recently. I have a local cemetery tour in Nov 2009 to thank for being completely bitten by the genealogy bug, as I found the graves of my grandmother’s, (who is still alive at nearly 92), paternal grandparents. Unfortunately my grandmother was not well enough to join my father and I on the tour that day, but was thrilled to see photos of her grandparents’ graves, both of whom died before she could meet them.

That was over 12 months ago now, and since then I have tried to learn everything I can about how to research my ancestors. I have been quite scattered in my approach until now, but one of my 2 main goals, (along with posting regularly to this blog about my research progress), is to become focused in my research.

I hope in 12 months time to say I have accomplished these 2 goals.