Photographic resource for Queensland-enlisted WWI soldiers

I have been doing some research into a WWI soldier for the 2015 Trans-Tasman Anzac Day Blog Challenge put together by Auckland Libraries and the Kintalk blog.

My research on this soldier is not complete, need to get a wriggle on, but I had to share a (new to me) resource on WWI soldiers from Queensland.

None of my military ancestors are actually from Queensland, however, because many of them lived in Northern NSW near the Queensland border a number of them enlisted in Queensland. One of those was Milton Simmons who I have blogged about before for the inaugural ANZAC challenge.

I have been researching a soldier who is unrelated to me, but one who went to the school my grandmother went to and the one my children now attend, and as I was searching for photographs of him in TROVE I found one of him and the source is as follows, ‘one of the soldiers photographed in The Queenslander Pictorial, supplement to The Queenslander, 1914.’

So in my true fashion, I went off on a tangent searching for a photograph of Milton Simmons – yes, I need to be more focused! But, I found him. Well at least I think I did. I need to look more carefully at the fuzzy image I already have of him and see how they compare. The photo does mention his Battalion, the 26th, so I think it really could be him.

The Queenslander, State Library of Queensland

The Queenslander, State Library of Queensland

The real purpose of this blog though is to note this fantastic resource for anyone who might be trying to find photographs of their WWI soldiers who enlisted in Queensland. You  may find them via TROVE, but you should also search directly in the State Library of Queensland’s catalogue One Search for these photographs from The Queenslander.  When searching, enter the surname of the person you are searching for, not their given names, and also enter the word soldiers, this should give you a good change of finding your soldier if there is a photo of him.

I have tried searching before on TROVE for photos of Milton Simmons but had no luck, mainly due to the commonality of his surname and I would also have used his given name. These photographs do not include given names so there is very little chance I would have found him without being able to search the State Library of QLD’s collection. Always great to have more than one place to search.

They are still digitising these photos, so if you don’t find your soldier the first time, don’t give up. Try again!


Overview of a convict’s life by an 8 year old

My 8 year old daughter has begun Year 3 at school learning about the First Fleet, settlement of white people in Australia and convicts.

After Miss 8’s first history lesson she came home and excitedly told me everything she could remember that they had learnt that day, (which I am sure would be more than I would!).

As Miss 8 talked about convicts, the crimes some committed, how long they could be transported for and what may have happened to them after they reached Australia, I asked her if she remembered that we have a convict ancestor. She had forgotten, but her eyes lit up and she wanted to know all about him.

My children know I research our family and so she also asked if I had ‘any photos or files’ on our convict, George Simmons. When she came out with that phrase I realised they do listen to me sometimes! Miss 8 decided she wanted to interview me as if I was George and she was a journalist, so we spent some time playing our roles and teasing out some interesting facts about him and his subsequent life in Australia. I tried very hard to make few suggestions because I did not want the resultant interview to sound like me, and it didn’t.

It also didn’t stop there because Miss 8 decided that she needed to include a description about George, taken from his shipping record, and then a short narrative about how people could become convicts.

Miss 8 took it to school this week and presented what she had done to her class. She was so excited, as was I, that I thought I would share it here. Hopefully it will inspire some other little budding family historians.

NB. For anyone thinking of copying this information, please keep in mind that the copyright belongs to an 8 year old child. We would love to hear from you if you would like further information.


My Convict Ancestor

What was his name?
His name was George Simmons.

How many years was he sent to Australia for?
He was sent to Australia for ten whole years!

How old was he?
He was only fifteen.

What crime did he commit?
He stole a pair of shoes.

Did He survive on the way?
He survived on the way. However, he did catch a disease called dysentry.

When did he arrive at Australia?
He arrived on the 27th of April in the 1840s.

What ship did he come on?
A ship called Mangles.

Did he try to escape?


George was 5 foot 5 inches tall, he had a sallow complexion and brown hair with light hazel eyes. His eye brows practically meet in the middle of his head! He had a scar on the back of his head, a wart on the knuckle of right middle finger. He had T T J and other blurry letters tattooed on the back of his hand.

Other things about George’s life

  • He got his ticket-of-leave in 1845 (which means he wasn’t a convict anymore).
  • He left for Australia in 1839 on November the 28th
  • George bought some land, in fact he owned seven blocks in Milton, NSW. He must have done a great job in his days of enslavement
  • He was married in Australia in 1847 on August the 28th. He was married to Sarah Tuckerman in Braidwood, NSW. We think George met Sarah when he worked as a convict on the farm next door to her father’s.
  • Nobody’s really sure when George was born but they think it was the 1th January 1825 and he died when he was 49 on the 20th of June 1874.

What is a convict?

Well it starts like this a convict is a person that has stolen something from a shop or a different person then they either get caught by the police or get daubed in by somebody else and that’s kind of how it starts and then they get sent to someone called a judge then the judge decides if they go to jail, if they are instant or whether they go on the ship to Australia and that is what a convict. It is someone like George Simmons who has been banished to another place like Australia.


Trove Tuesday: Brooklet School Picnic

Trove Tuesday is an initiative of Amy Houston of Branches, Leaves and Pollen.

My post this Tuesday is about a very small item I found that mentions my Nan’s family in Brooklet in Northern NSW, just prior to Christmas in 1900.

Brooklet School Picnic. (1900, December 22). Northern Star (Lismore, NSW : 1876 – 1954), p. 4. Retrieved October 9, 2012, from

It is such a very small mention ‘Simmonds’ but has resulted in me being able to narrow down when the family moved from Milton on the South Coast, up to the North Coast of NSW. My great grandfather, Victor Rex SIMMONS was born in Milton in 1898 so I knew they were still living down South then. Until I came across this article, the earliest I could place them on the North Coast was from the 1901 electoral role.

Although it narrows down the time frame of when they arrived, I still do not know exactly when they came up this way, or why – although I suspect it had to do with selling the family farm and moving to where there was more land.

I should also point out that the name in the article is not spelt exactly the same way as my Nan’s maiden name of Simmons, however, due to the very small population in the area at the time and after not discovering any other Simmons or Simmonds family in the area at that time in my research, I am quite confident it is ‘my’ Simmons family.

I also like this article because of the spirit it represents in people building a new community and how important a school was in that process. Something we take somewhat for granted these days.

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.

Book review. “Meet the Pioneers: Early Families of the Milton/Ulladulla District”

I purchased “Meet the Pioneers: early families of the Milton/Ulladulla District with photographs” a few months ago after a recommendation from a newly discovered cousin.

Meet the Pioneers grew out of a local exhibition of pioneering families photographs that the author Joanne Ewin was organising. Joanne gathered such a unique collection of photographs and family stories from descendants of pioneer families that she decided to publish them so they could be shared.

The book has proven to be a valuable edition to my library because it contains numerous anecdotes and photographs of my SIMMONS  and TUCKERMAN families I haven’t seen before. It is also an extremely well-presented pictorial history of the pioneering families of the Milton/Ulladulla district. The quality of the paper, printing, cover and binding are very high, and although the cost of $35 plus postage might seem a little steep, I was very impressed when it arrived. It also has a lovely index that so far has proven to be very accurate. (I love indexes – is that a librarian or family historian ‘thing’? Maybe both.)

I would highly recommend this book to anyone with pioneering ancestors from the Milton/Ulladulla district.

If you would like the index checked for your ancestor’s name, please send me an email. I’d be happy to look for you.

I finally have a face for the name

I recently came into contact with the husband of a distant cousin who has been extremely generous in sharing what he and his wife have discovered about this line of our family. I believe he is extremely generous because as I haven’t been doing my own family research for very long, I don’t have a great deal to share. We have however been able to consult each other about some outstanding and/or contradictory facts that we have both discovered.

The contact was initiated when I emailed the Milton-Ulladulla Family History Society to see if they had any information, preferably containing photos, of my 2xgreat grandfather James Simmons who was a Mayor in the area in the late 1880s. Within a day of contacting them they gave me the email address of my newly-discovered relatives. Since then we have shared many emails, one of which contained a portrait of James that we believe, and this needs further investigation, came from “The Australian Men of Mark”.

I was very excited to finally ‘see’ James. Not only for myself, but also for my grandmother who had never seen a photo, or portrait of him. James was the son of George (SYMONS) SIMMONS and Sarah TUCKERMAN, and was born on 28 Sep 1849 on the Clyde River. James was the eldest of 11 children born to George and Sarah and would achieve enough kudos to gain an entry in the “The Australian Men of Mark” that I am yet to see apart from the portrait. (When I found out on the weekend that he was in this publication I excitedly went to work this week to look at the 2 volumes of the above we have in our Library, to sadly discover that of course he is in one of the ‘other’ versions of Volume 2. Luckily I have another wonderful lady in Milton-Ulladulla trying to track down a copy for me. I may find it yet!!)

James moved with his parents to Ulladulla when he was very young, about 3, and farmed with his father until George died in 1874 leaving Sarah with 11 children, the youngest of which was only 1. He was an auctioneer for 2 years until becoming a farmer again on the adjoining farm ‘Washburton’ that he and his siblings had inherited from Sarah’s mother, Sarah TUCKERMAN in 1870. (James’ mother Sarah had immigrated with her parents William and Sarah TUCKERMAN from Washburton, Devon, England in 1839. )

Apart from being Mayor of Ulladulla for four years in 1886-87 and 1891-92, he was, according to a publication called Meet the Pioneers by Joanne Ewin, “a steadfast supporter of the Henry Parkes Government and Free Trade”. He was also a champion ploughman winning many prizes at Milton Shows, and seemed to be at the forefront of farming technology as he “had a modern cheese plant and cream separator worked by steam power”.

James married twice. His first marriage was to Frances Mary LUCK (1854-1878), they had no children. His second marriage was to Eliza WENTWORTH in (1855-1916) and they had 7 children, 6 surviving to adulthood. (My grandmother’s father Victor Rex SIMMONS was their youngest child, born in 1898. Another son was Milton SIMMONS whose story is also on this blog.)

At a date as yet unknown, and maybe it will stay that way, James and Eliza moved with their children to Knockrow and then Brooklet in Northern NSW. Without any documented reasons, my newly-discovered relative and I are surmising that they moved for the cheaper land and perceived greater opportunities. I still have a lot of research to do on the family in regards to exactly where they lived and what they farmed, but do know that James and Eliza are buried in the cemetery of the town where I live. (This is a little bizarre, as I keep finding ancestors buried in the town we now live in, where neither my husband or I were born or grew up!)

James passed away suddenly in 1912. Eliza followed a few years later in 1916, awaiting news of a son missing from a battle in the Somme in France, Milton SIMMONS, and another son, Rupert Wesley SIMMONS, who had apparently being captured by the Germans during World War I.

Until the day when I can travel to Sydney to do further research of probate and land records I will have to be content with my recently acquired portrait of James. I am impatient though, now I want one of Eliza!

Is there anything you would like to put your name on?

Whilst visiting my Nan today she asked me if I wanted to put my name on any of the special things in her buffet. At nearly 92, and feeling a bit weary, she seems to have decided to attempt to evenly allocate to family members, all the important/sentimental items she has acquired over her lifetime.

I was hesitant to “claim” anything, although did suggest that I would love to have her old photos if none of her children wanted them. It did, however, give me the opportunity to ask her about some of the items in the buffet, and I loved hearing their stories. Amongst some of the more sentimental items was, a beautifully engraved jug and glasses her parents gave her on her 21st birthday, 2 lovely silver cake-serving dishes that were wedding presents, and a set of silver napkin rings that belonged to my grandfather’s mother. There is also a gorgeous, tiny cup and saucer that she carried back to Australia with her when she last left England with her parents when she was 9, in 1928. This she told me, is for my 5 year old daughter, and I am certain will be something she will treasure.

To have one or two of these special mementos to remember Nan by will be wonderful, and whilst it felt very awkward to be discussing such things, I was very happy we had the chance to talk about the history of them. What I need to do next time I visit is to take photos and write a brief description – easier said than done with 2 pre-school children in tow. Isn’t that what the tv is for??

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

2011 Australia Day – the earliest documents of my Australian ancestors

Shelley from Twigs of Yore has suggested an alternative way of celebrating Australia Day for genealogists. Shelley issued an invitation to: 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.

I didn’t have a hard choice to make about who I would focus on for this post. My 3rd great grandfather George SIMMONS/SYMONS arrived in Australia as a convict in 1840 and has, so far, provided me with the earliest  documented evidence of my Australian ancestors.

What is the document?

The document I have is an article from the North Devon Journal, dated 18 April 1839, describing the trial and sentencing of George SYMONS for stealing a pair of shoes. The condition of the article makes it very hard to read and is not worth including an image of here. I have transcribed it though, and have included most of it below.

“The grand jury having found a true bill against George Symons, aged 16, for a felony, the prisoner was arraigned, charged with stealing on the 22nd day of March last, one pair shoes, the property of John Hartnoll, from the smack ‘Flora’ lying at the quay. The prisoner pleaded “not guilty.”…The first witness was John Hartnoll; the prosecutor; (I) am master of the smack ‘Flora;’ she was lying at Barnstaple quay on the 22nd March; I was on board during the day; left a her a little after one o’clock; left a pair of shoes in the companion; the prisoner was on board, but he is not in my employ, nor had he any business there, but I have often seen him about the quay, and he is in the habit of going aboard vessels; I returned a little after two; prisoner was not there then; I found my shoes missing immediately; in the course of the following Monday, I saw my shoes at the house of Tucker, in Back Lane(?), on the feet of a man named Fagan; I took the shoes from Fagan and gave them to Chanter, the constable.

Susannah Smith; keep a pawnbroker’s shop in Barnstaple; know the prisoner; in the afternoon of the 22nd March, he came to my shop to pledge a pair of shoes; I advanced 8__(??) upon them, and he came again some time after with a person to purchase the shoes, but he did not buy them because they did not suit him; he afterwards came gain with Elizabeth Fagan, and she bought them; the boy returned the ticket, and woman paid me 8 ½ _(?).

Elizabeth Fagan; I was at Tucker’s lodging house on Friday, 22nd March; know the prisoner; saw him at Tucker’s; bought a pawn ticket of(sic) him for 6d(?); he went with me to Mrs Smith’s pawn shop for the shoes; I paid her 8 ½d, and she gave me the shoes; I carried them home, and my husband put them on this feet and wore them.

Joseph Fagan; received a pair of shoes from my wife on Friday, 22nd March; wore them until Monday, when Mr Hartnoll came, and said the shoes were his, and I took them off and cleaned them, and gave them to him.

William Chanter, policeman, produced the shoes; and the prosecutor identified them.

The prisoner declined to say any thing in his defence.

The Recorder summed up, and the jury without hesitation found the prisoner guilty.”

Not particularly conclusive testimony from the witnesses, but as the “prisoner” declined to comment it is hard to form an opinion other than the  “guilty” that was given.

Do you remember the research process that lead you to it? How and where did you find it?

I had trouble initially tracking down where George SIMMONS had appeared from, because it turned out he was originally known as George SYMONS. As I traced back through my paternal grandmother’s ancestors, I was looking for her maiden name SIMMONS. I found her grandfather James SIMMONS through NSW BDM certificates, but could find no trace of the George SIMMONS listed on his baptism certificate. Using the NSW BDM index search I tried all sorts of combinations of searches and in one late night act entered “S*” as a search phrase for the surname and the first names George and Sarah (TUCKERMAN) which I had from James’ baptism cert, and up popped SYMONS. (Of course once I had done this and got a result I wondered why I hadn’t tried it sooner!) From there George SYMONS’ convict and Australian story unfolded.

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!

Once I had discovered I had an ancestor with a convict past, I was determined to find out if George had been recorded speaking in his defence. Unfortunately as you have seen above he did not, but I was still thrilled to receive the copy of the article from the North Devon Record Office who I contacted for research assistance when I could not find online access to the sources I needed.

George and Sarah settled near Milton/Ulladulla and had 11 children. George died when he was 49 and was listed as a farmer on his death certificate. His youngest child was 1 at the time of his death, and Sarah died only 6 years later. George and Sarah’s deaths’ at relatively young ages, and with young children left without parents, makes you consider some of the hardships our early Australian ancestors endured, and appreciate those that have paved the way for us.